Drug abuse, malpractice, cultism, communal clashes, terrorism, and various criminal acts such as armed robbery, human trafficking, kidnapping, and juvenile delinquency, are all on the rise in Nigeria. And the country’s minister of education, Adamu Adamu, correlates this state of affairs with illiteracy.
How Literacy Affects Nigeria
Adamu recently commented on Nigeria’s staggering illiteracy rate at the five-day literacy conference Literacy for Sustainable National Development and Empowerment, organized by the Department of Adult Education, University of Ibadan. He was represented by Professor Habba Hiladu, executive secretary of the National Commission for Mass Literacy.
“Education is the bedrock of any country’s development and any country that does not educate its populace is bound to fail,” Adamu said in his statement for the conference. “Unfortunately in Nigeria, we have a very large population of illiterates; the [number of] illiterates, considering our population, is unbecoming.”
Of the estimated 170 million people living in Nigeria, 75 million do not have basic literacy skills. Additionally, there are 10.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria—the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, which is 20 million.
Nigeria’s federal government is tackling this crisis and the low productivity, poverty, unemployment, communal conflicts, and healthcare complications that result from low-literacy. In addition to targeting children who are already out of school, the government is making a resilient effort to dramatically increase the number of children entering school and to prevent students from dropping out because of financial or cultural reasons among other things. “This includes the adoption of inclusive education where every Nigerian will be given the opportunity to go to school, regardless of background, ethnicity and gender,’’ Adamu stated.
The Federal Ministry of Education also plans to approach the crisis by implementing a mass literacy program to help youth and adults gain the literacy skills needed to improve their lives. In doing so, the current administration is pursuing numerous intervention programs.
What else can Nigeria do?
Building a literate and inclusive country will take more than the efforts being made only by the government.
The education systems in Nigeria need to be rebuilt. UNICEF helps improve planning, budgeting and monitoring, and assesses learning outcomes and teacher competency. It also helps build the capacity of School Based Management Committees (SBMC). Additionally, UNICEF helps teachers improve their skills and preparedness. Efforts like these need to gain more traction.
Africa’s private sector should be set free to help public education systems innovate and adapt blended learning, which promotes learning through a combination of online and traditional classroom lessons. In South Africa, private school enrolments rose by 76 percent in 2010 when blended learning was introduced to the curriculum.
Education innovation has played a huge role for many programs, for all ages, such as Kenya Adult Learners Association (KALA). KALA and ProLiteracy partnered to pilot a digital literacy program which utilized e-reading tablets for adult learners to practice reading.
“Tackling illiteracy should be on everyone’s agenda. The basic education statistics show how much work that remains to be done in order to achieve some degree of acceptable equity in access to education and the improvement in the quality of education in general.”