One question that stakeholders and experts in adult and non-formal education in the country may not be able to answer correctly is how many Nigerians are literate.
The National Bureau of Statistics and the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education?s records have shown that 53 per cent of the nation?s 140 million people are literate, while the remaining 47 per cent cannot read or write in any language. The two agencies put the number of the illiterates at 55million.
More worrisome, according to the Minister of State for Education, Hajia Aishatu Dukku, is the fact that over 60 per cent of the illiterate population are women. And results from efforts being made to increase the number of the literate in the country have not been very satisfactory. This is because all the adult education centres across the country can only boast of about 2million enrolment figure. Also some experts have noted that the number of illiterates in the country might be more than the 55million figure. They argue that the figure was arrived at from untested self-disclosure method.
?If we truly conduct a proper literacy test for Nigerians, the figure of those who are illiterate would be higher. The one that was done during the national population census where officials just asked people whether they could read and write without test would never give us the true picture,? a lecturer in the Adult Education Department of the University of Ibadan, Dr. Olumide Olujide, said.
Dukku, whose office supervises mass literacy education in the country, at a national media forum on adult education and non-formal education in Abuja on Tuesday, said that the government was concerned about the trend.
?We are aware of this trend and that is why we have increased budgetary allocation to the sub sector by 200 per cent. She disclosed that if the budget already with the National Assembly was passed, a national household literacy survey would be conducted by NMEC in collaboration with the NBS this year.
This, she said, would help the nation to know the exact figure of its citizens that are not literate.
Dukku noted that when this was done, planning would become easier, while the problems associated with illiteracy would be eliminated.
This move, she said, became necessary because the high number of illiterates, particularly women in the country, was impacting negatively on national development.
Dukku may not be far from the truth. This is because the high incidence of maternal mortality, high morbidity rate, high prevalence of killer diseases and ignorance are products of illiteracy among the women folk.
She added, ?Like they say, if you teach a woman to read and write, you are teaching a nation. Therefore, we will improve on our efforts to educate not just our women folk, but all illiterate Nigerians. Part of the measures we are adopting is the literacy by radio, expansion of adult education centres, increased funding to the sub sector, training of facilitators and increased collaboration with non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations and the local community.?
The minister, like other stakeholders, including the Executive Secretary, NMEC, Dr. Dayo Olagunju, at the forum organised to intimate the media on the initiatives lined up to shore up the nation?s adult literacy rate, called for concerted efforts by state governments and other stakeholders empowered by law to provide basic education for the citizens to work harder at eliminating the trend. She said that the Federal Government would continue to support all efforts to educate all Nigerians.
?Part of what we are doing is the education on radio scheme, but we are imploring the state governments to support the vision with the provision of free air time on their radio stations. They should also create more adult education centres, while facilitators should be motivated,? Dukku said.
She encouraged state governments to always include adult and non-formal education in their proposals to the Universal Basic Education Commission so that the sub sector could benefit from the UBEC grant. To motivate other literate women to contribute to the education of others, Dukku said she was ready to teach in any of the adult education centres.
Asked whether she could teach in an adult education centre as a serving minister, she said, ?Why not? I can and I will teach at the adult education centres. At least I am a teacher and I started out in life as a teacher. So I will not mind to teach there in order to help others to become literate. I will also encourage other educated women to enhance the education of other women.?
In his own remarks, Olagunju said that education liberated the mind from ignorance and no investment should be considered too much for the provision of education.
He said that the agency would spare no effort to reposition the sub sector. But he called on all stakeholders, including all the three tiers of government, to support the agency.
Olagunju explained that the literacy by radio programme was initiated after the success recorded by Cuba, which employed a similar scheme to reduce its illiteracy rate.