Illiteracy figures

Illiteracy figures

•Nigeria needs to urgently address the crisis

Nigeria needs 58 years to banish illiteracy and

this is going to be hectic.” This alarming

assessment was among highlights at an

international workshop on teaching and

learning organised by Afe Babalola University,

Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State. The speaker was Dr.

Muhammed Alkali, National Programme Officer,

United Nations Educational Scientific

Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Regional

Office in Abuja. According to him, over 62

million Nigerians are illiterates. With the

country’s total population put at 178.5 million

in 2014, UNESCO’s statistics regarding its

illiterate population is lamentably on the high


The yearly celebration of International

Literacy Day on September 8 underscores the

place of literacy in the modern world. The

special day endorsed by UNESCO has been

celebrated since 1966, and helps to keep the

international community focused on literacy

issues. Also noteworthy is the United Nations

Literacy Decade (UNLD) launched in 2003 with

the objectives of increasing literacy levels and

empowering illiterates.

The theme of International Literacy Day 2015

was “Literacy and Sustainable Societies”.

According to UNESCO, “Literacy is a key

driver for sustainable development. Literacy

skills are the prerequisite for the learning of

a broader set of knowledge, skills, attitudes

and values, required for creating sustainable


There is no doubt that Nigeria needs to

achieve higher literacy levels in order to

achieve greater socio-economic development.

Notably, Alkali said: “UNESCO is targeting

drop-outs which are predominant in JSS2

going by available research in Nigeria. We are

seriously concerned and worried with the

increasing illiteracy in Africa…Unless we are

deceiving ourselves, ICT remains the best way

to provide education now…” It is useful to

note Alkali’s point about Information and

Communications Technology (ICT), as well as

his argument that full introduction of ICT is

indispensable in the 21st century for the

realisation of a knowledge-based economy.


Against the background of the country’s high

illiteracy figures, the new Minister of

Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, definitely

has his work cut out for him. It is reassuring

that Adamu showed appreciation of the work

to be done during his first meeting with top

officials of the Federal Ministry of Education

in Abuja. He said: “The core problems of

education in the country vary from one level

of education to another, the crisis of

underfunding, which gave birth to a whole

series of other problems such as poor

infrastructure for teaching and learning,

poor conditions of service for teachers and

the menace of brain drain from our tertiary


Adamu lamented: “Also the crises of poor

enrolment and access which has left millions of

school age children roaming the streets and

the crisis of regulation which has turned the

entire education system into a jungle where

everything goes. The system has been left

unregulated, unsupervised and with no

recourse to ethics and professionalism.”

The connection between individual literacy and

social development cannot be over-

emphasised; and the role of good governance

in the eradication of illiteracy cannot be

downplayed. Ideally, all tiers of government

should be involved in ensuring that reading

and writing skills are more widely taught and

learned across the country.

It is politically correct to consider literacy a

human right based on the inclusion of basic

education in the Universal Declaration of

Human Rights. This modern thinking and the

global idea of “Education for All” are

manifestations of humanity’s progress on the

path of human rights. It is bad enough that

one in five adults cannot read and write in a

world estimated to have 776 million illiterates.

The country’s literacy efforts have proved

inadequate. What is needed is a sustained

collective effort which will go farther than

one-shot programmes or campaigns.