The Federal Government has expressed renewed determination to eradicate illiteracy in Nigeria, estimated at about 56 million of the nation’s population who cannot read and write.
This is even as the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has lamented that halfway point in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, over 244 million school-age children are still not in school with 98 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
Minister of Education, Professor Tahir Mamman, SAN, speaking on Friday in Abuja during the commemoration of the 2023 International Literacy Day, said the fight against illiteracy in Nigeria is a battle that “must be won” given the commitment and directive of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that illiteracy must be eliminated in the country.
He notes that the mandate entrusted to him and his Minister of State for Education, Dr. Yusuf Sununu, by Tinubu in his vision of renewed hope includes mass literacy as a top priority.
He noted that President Tinubu does not want a single illiterate in Nigeria and that as an educationist he would ensure that the mandate is achieved.
He described illiteracy as a scourge and disease that the government would not allow to continue, adding that the ministry has the directive of the President and “we have resolved to address it”.
Mamman said: “This event also marks my very first outing as Minister of Education since my appointment a few weeks ago. Hence I am very excited and filled with enthusiasm to pilot the mandate entrusted to me by Mr President in his vision of “Renewed Hope” which cuts across all sectors and human endeavours including Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education which offers people a second chance, sometimes even a third and fourth.
“Its focus is on lifelong learning. It provides everyone with the hope to live and to change unacceptable circumstances and situations. It provides an alternative means of access to learning through further training and lifelong learning.
“Thus, the theme of the 2023 International Literacy Day; “Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies”, is a most fitting conjecture that accurately describes the world we live in today; effectively exploring the patterns of transformation and adjustment that have characterized education globally as a result of its ever-increasing scope and paradigm.
“Specifically, it awakens our consciousness to the need to continually make required adjustments in our approach to literacy delivery with a view to meeting the current global trends.
“The Ministry would continue to leverage on the existing progress and transformation in the development of literacy while setting the stage for lifelong learning of the Nigerian adults and youths.
“We would continue to rethink the fundamental importance of functional literacy as a necessary panacea that will help build resilience and ensure quality, equitable and inclusive education for all,” he said.
The Minister commended Audrey Azoulay the Director General of UNESCO and her staff for their continued support in coordinating wide-ranging technical and financial assistance of the UN system, donor countries and the private sector, in country-level implementation of initiatives and programmes aimed at reducing the Scourge of illiteracy worldwide.
He called on all stakeholders, including the press, to make a difference by complementing the government’s efforts in the fight against illiteracy in our various schedules, homes, families and immediate communities.
According to a document obtained from the National Commission for Mass Literacy Adult and Non-Formal Education (NMEC) over 56 million of the Nigerian population still unable to read and write.
It said: “Illiteracy is a major challenge in Nigeria with over 56 million of our population still unable to read and write.
“This task of eradicating illiteracy is thus enormous and daunting. The current high statistics of the non-literate population alongside the number of Out-of-School-Children (OOSC) calls for concern. Hence, the human race earnestly looks up to Adult and Non-Formal Education as the right panacea to the problems of the 21st century.
“Regrettably, this anticipated remedy has been so elusive due to low political will at all levels of government; a situation which has culminated into escalating statistics in the number of Out-of-School-Children, child mortality, unabating increase in the population of non-literate adults and youth, insecurity, wanton poverty and deteriorating health conditions among others.
“Therefore, it is pertinent that, in tandem with the global concern for eradication of illiteracy, improved funding, adequate resources and better attention should be divested to the non-formal education sector so that the myriads of challenges bedevilling the sector can be tackled head-on and the path to national development can be better sustained.
“This is a foremost global practice around the world in the 21″ century, and the Commission is working assiduously within the ambit of little resources to address the challenges,” it stated.
Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Audrey Azoulay, in her message, raised concerns that at about the halfway point in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, more than 244 million school-age children are still not in school globally with 98 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to her, more than 773 million adults still cannot read or write-two thirds of them women across the world.
Azoulay’s speech was read by the National Programme Officer, UNESCO Regional Office Abuja, Dr Stephen Onyekwere. She disclosed however that in the space of 40 years, significant progress has been made as 3.6 billion people have learned to read and write raising the global literacy rate from 68 per cent in 1979 to 86 per cent in 2020.
“Literacy is indeed much more than merely learning letters and words. It transforms the drops of ink on paper into windows on the world, it is the key that opens the door to knowledge, emancipation and imagination.
“Beyond the benefits for the individual though, society as a whole benefits from progress in literacy.
“For it is a passport to communication with others, thereby strengthening understanding within and between peoples, and it also enables everyone to integrate into society and strengthens participation in civic life,” she stated.
READ ALSO FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE