The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said the effort would focus on rehabilitating Kabul University, training education professionals, and developing non-formal and distance learning programmes to tackle the country’s illiteracy rates, which are among the highest in the world. According to UNESCO, over the past two decades, Afghanistan lost an estimated 200,000 education experts and academics, while its 17 universities and institutes were left devastated by conflict. In response, the agency has set up a computer training centre at the journalism faculty of Kabul University, along with an Internet café. UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said a “massive effort” had already begun to re-open schools and enable Afghan children to get back into class. “This first phase must now be followed up by longer-term activities to rebuild the education system, including the formulation of sound policies and the strengthening of Afghanistan’s professional capacities,” he said. The agency and the Afghan authorities have jointly outlined a series of projects to present to donors. The initiatives incorporate outreach to out-of-school youth and the illiterate adults who make up an estimated 70 per cent of the population, including the vast majority of women. Children with special needs, such as orphans and the disabled, will also be targeted.