‘Combating illiteracy is everyone’s business’
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) National Programme Advisor on Education, Dr Mohammed Alkali, recently revealed the results of its survey that showed that despite improvements to the country’s education system, 65 million Nigerians remain illiterate.
And with this mind-boggling figure of illiterate Nigerians abound, managing director of Pearson Nigeria, (the firm, which prides itself as the learning company), Mr. Muhtar Bakare, says it is time for government, schools and individuals to take action.
According to Bakare, “This statistic is alarming for a number of reasons. Illiteracy has adverse impacts at both an individual and societal level. People who are illiterate are far more likely to live in poverty, facing a lifetime marred by poor health and social vulnerability. Economically, the impacts of illiteracy are also sizeable; workplace productivity, unemployment rates and even national Gross Domestic Products (GDP) are all affected by a country’s literacy levels.
With Nigeria’s illiteracy rate standing at just over 50 percent, it is a matter of national urgency that we work to redress our literacy crisis.”
On how the country can make real changes that have a measureable and tangible impact on Nigerian learners, he said, “Of course, governments and policy makers need to play a critical role in any solution. Illiteracy will never be overcome while 10 million Nigerian children remain out of school. Providing quality schools and quality teachers are therefore a vital component in improving national literacy levels. Equipping schools with the necessary resources – libraries, books and classroom facilities – and providing adequate training for teachers are all essential to making literacy widely available to all Nigerians.
“However, access to classrooms and books is only part of the answer. As parents and citizens, we all have a responsibility to promote literacy amongst our young people. But with 35 million Nigerian adults illiterate, how do we instil a love of reading in our children when so many of us can’t read ourselves?” he questioned rhetorically.
The company executive who maintained that, “Children of illiterate parents are far more likely to be illiterate themselves,” added that, “therefore education programmes that target adults as well as school children are key. We also need to be better at making parents throughout the country aware of the critical importance learning and education plays in their children’s future. A child who can read and write sufficiently will enjoy better employment prospects, better earning capacity, better access to healthcare and be less likely to face social exclusion.”
He advised that, “Reducing illiteracy should, therefore be viewed as an investment, rather than a cost, for both the governments and households. Overcoming illiteracy in Nigeria will require a long-term commitment from governments, non-governmental organisations, educators and parents. We can no longer look to just one group to provide solutions or outcomes. Working together to implement reforms and programmes that can lead to real change are a matter of national urgency. The future of our country and our people will be closely tied to achieving widespread literacy. Failing this will miss a great opportunity for Nigeria and its citizens.”