Education For All (EFA) is a global movement first launched in 1990 and led by United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO with the aim to meet the learning needs of all children, youth and adults globally by 2015. Can Nigeria meet the target as the deadline approaches with the alarming rate of illeterate adults and out of school children in the country? Maryam Garba Hassan writes.
To realize this aim, a broad coalition of national governments, civil society groups, and development agencies such as UNESCO and the World Bank Group are committed to achieving six specific education goals.
The following are the 6 goals set; Expand and improve comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
Ensure that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, those in difficult circumstances, and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete, free, and compulsory primary education of good quality.
Ensure that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programs.
Achieve a 50% improvement in adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults.
Eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieve gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality.
Improve all aspects of the quality of education and ensure the excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.
The EFA goals also contribute to the global pursuit of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially MDG 2 on Universal primary education and MDG 3 on gender equality in education, by 2015.
In 2000, 189 countries including Nigeria and their partners adopted the two EFA goals that align with Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2 and 3, which refer to universal primary education and gender parity.
Despite the financial support Nigeria get from international partners like the World Bank to help her achieve this goal and the country’s strong economy, it is saddening that as 2015 which is the EFA deadline approaches, Nigeria is far from reaching the Education for All goal established at the World Conference on Education for All in 1990.
Education is a right and everyone has the right to it as it is not only a right but a passport to human development which opens doors and expands opportunities and freedoms.
It also contributes to fostering peace, democracy and economic growth, improve health and reduce poverty.
The growing population of illiterate adults in Nigeria is put at 46 million, a figure that puts Nigeria in the category of 10 countries of the world with more than 10 million illiterate adults whose ages range from 15 years and above.
Minister of State for Education, Ezenwo Wike, also confirmed this figure during last year’s International Literacy Day, where he said Nigeria’s adult illiterates have increased from 25 million in 1997 to 35 million in 2013 while 10.5 million children are out of school which, according to him, is embarrassing to the nation.
He said the embarrassing literacy statistics on Nigeria, justifies the need for all stakeholders to redouble their efforts.
“The current Education for All, EFA, Global Monitoring report ranks Nigeria as one of the countries with the highest level of illiteracy.
“The report on Nigeria stated that the number of illiterate adults has increased by 10 million over the past two decades, to reach 35 million.
This is even as the non-formal education sector in the last two years or so began the implementation of programmes for revitalising adult and youth literacy.
Secondly, the current UNESCO official statistics of the monitored report on global progress of countries towards the six EFA goals revealed that there was no significant improvement in elementary education in Nigeria and that 10.5m children in the country are still not in school.
The number is said to be the highest globally.
This data has further exposed the rot in our education system and that Nigeria is still far from achieving the EFA goal 1.
While releasing the report, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, said ‘combined with UNESCO’s recent news that aid to education has fallen yet again, the lack of progress in reducing out of school numbers confirms our fears. There is no chance, whatsoever, that countries will reach the goal of universal primary education by 2015”.
“We cannot meet this news with further inertia. On the contrary, we must sound the alarm and mobilize the political will to ensure that every child’s right to education is respected,” she said.
The World Bank had also expressed worries over the rate of illiterate adults in the country.
At the formal inauguration of the State Education Investment Project in Abuja, the Acting Country representative of the World Bank, Mr. Sateh El-Arnaoyi, said Nigeria could only ensure a sustainable growth with massive investment in education.
Stakeholders are of the believe that much cannot be achieved by the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education, MNEC as fund had always been the major challenge facing the Commission saddle with the responsibility of educating 46 million Nigeria’s adult illiterate.
According to Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General, EFA goals and MDGs are complementary and when you fund education, you are securing progress towards all the Millennium Development Goals’.
It would be recalled that in 2010 the Mass Literacy Agency got the support of the MDGs and about N1b was released in trust to UNESCO to revitalize adult and youth literacy in the country after an MOU was signed in Paris between the then Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’I and UNESCO in 2011, afterwards UNESCO started in earnest. Although, the total amount needed for the programme is N12b.
To get the remaining 11bn for the programme, the agency in 2011 embarked on advocacy visits to solicit for the money.
Presently, a strategic framework has been developed to revitalize adult and youth literacy in the country for the next three years and beyond and work plan was also developed for the first years.
According to the Executive Secretary of NMEC, Jibrin Paiko, the agency had started the practical implementation of the programme in April and May, 2012 and had also discussed with six universities, one from each of the six geo- political zone.
He said the Universities were anchored to develop a master training package at the Commission level and a facilitators’ hand book to conduct training in all geopolitical zones by these universities was developed and 11 Masters Trainers were selected for each state including NGOs.
The plan is to do a state level training where about 111 state facilitators were trained from the funds and more trained to make the total number of facilitators to 4,104, he said.
It is from the programme the agency reviewed the various curriculum materials that are available which includes primers, the girl child, out of school and integrated Qur’an school curriculum.
One of the ways the issue of increase in the rise of illiterate adults in Nigeria can be addressed is through radio programme anchored by state Commissioners for education which has been on in the last 10 years.
The programme should be intensified in the country.
Another challenge facing the Commission is that adult and youth vitalization programme in Nigeria, is that states don’t have facilitators and some state governments who do, do not pay for the training which by law they should pay not the agency. The minimum monthly stipend of a facilitator is N7500.
To get close to achieving EFA, state and local governments must redouble efforts at eradicating illiteracy in the country.
The eradication of illiteracy in the country should not be left in the hands of development partners and NGOs. The federal, state and local governments also need to allocate more budget for the agency to enable it address the nation’s increasing illiteracy rate.
Although the bulk of the task of eradicating illiteracy in most of the E-9 countries like India, China, Brazil and Indonesia among others is borne by non-governmental organisations but Nigeria government should know that government of those countries were also serious about eradicating illiteracy in their countries which encouraged them to support the government.
It a well- known fact that literacy is one of the key solutions to some of the nation’s challenges such as insecurity, poverty, poor health condition, among others. All this requires commitment and funding.
Basic literacy has the potential of liberating individuals and families from poverty, ignorance and diseases.
The only way we can solve this problem is to take formal and informal education as an emergency, which is very necessary and anything short of that, we will not be able to achieve any meaningful result.
If we allow the level of illiteracy to continue to increase, as it increases, it poses security problems.A