Egypt's illiteracy problem has intensified and its effects are illustrated by the army of illiterate Egyptians who stand in line to acquire literacy certificates by illegal means. As some services have been conditioned on the document itself - a good thing - many illiterate people see the move as an irritant and strive to acquire the certificate through bribery. This has afforded a number of Adult Education Authority employees with a steady source of income, placing the government body within the context of the Egypt-wide proliferation of corruption. Two years ago, a friend of mine told me he had acquired a motorcycle and will seek a licence to ride it through bribery brokers with connections in the Adult Education Authority to facilitate his application. I told him it couldn't possibly happen and went about my way. Two weeks later, I was stunned to learn that he had acquired what he was after through bribery. This incident shows these certificates as a mere formality, and indicates that the true illiteracy figures may well be much higher than the official ones. I hope you will not jump to the conclusion that I am opposed to linking services to literacy. I am, however, against this becoming an avenue for bribery and a way of reducing illiteracy figures. I sincerely hope that the Adult Education Authority, led by my colleague and friend, Mostafa Ragab, will fix this fault that has hit this institution along with all other state bodies. All that aside, I am horrified by the sheer size of Egypt's illiteracy problem - and we must not be fooled by the literacy statistics offered by state authorities, as many of these figures are fictitious. Here are some of the reasons behind the increased number of illiterate Egyptians and some proposals that could help solve the problem. Reasons behind Egypt's illiteracy problem include: 1. The lack of awareness about the importance of education in slums and shanty towns. 2. The low levels of education in ravaged elementary schools. 3. Some elementary school-children dropping out before learning to read and write. 4. Vocational education's disregard of reading and writing skills and focusing solely on technical skills. 5. The low income of some families which forces them to find employment for their children to help provide for the family. 6. The existence of craft industries which some children join and which do not pay attention to children's reading and writing skills. Proposals to solve the illiteracy problem include: 1. The army should play a crucial rule in teaching conscripts to read and write and give educated soldiers ample opportunity to teach their illiterate colleagues. 2. Holding a conference which brings together experts from education institutions, state services, private establishments, production centres and other state authorities in order to draft a document listing the standards and criteria required by citizens to enable them to deal efficiently with the work and services offered by these parties. 3. Hosting programmes for the illiterate on all television networks at appropriate hours. 4. Allocating a certain portion of each network's broadcast to spreading awareness of the dangers of illiteracy. 5. Setting up an assessment and certification body fully independent from the Adult Education Authority to hold literacy exams that are marked according to national standards established at the aforementioned conference. 6. Creating a national programme to teach illiterate people aged 15 to 50 to read within seven years in order to reach 0 percent illiteracy within a decade. 7. Creating a parallel program to contain young drop-outs early on and rewarding the ones who pass the literacy test; 8. Renewing literacy certificates for adults every four years. 9. Legislating penalties for issuing literacy certificates falsely. 10. Providing citizens who chose to learn to read and write with benefits, such as reductions in fees. 11. NGOs and the private sector both contributing to funding and services for adult education. 12. Creating a national map of the contribution of civil, state and private institutions. 13. Universities taking on part of the work of adult literacy education by training students to carry out the work under university supervision. 14. University graduates being encouraged to take on the burden of teaching adults, providing graduates who teach 100 illiterate citizens with job opportunities. 15. Assessing the Adult Education Authority's work in light of its success in implementing the national adult education programme. 16. Instating an extra facility for public, banking and other services for those who have yet to learn to read and write. 17. Until 2015, issuing two-year-only passports (stamped 'Illiterate') to illiterate citizens with a 1,000-pound penalty and with subsequent renewals expiring in one year, progressing between 2015 and 2018 to issuing one-year-only passports on a 2,000-pound penalty (paid with each renewal) until only literate citizens are issued passports seven years after the adoption of the new constitution. 18. Legislating for the refunding of the last penalty paid by the illiterate citizen once he or she has been certified literate. 19. Legislating laws obliging employers to teach all their workers to read and write within three years and penalising the employment of children who have not been certified literate.