By Evelyn Okakwu and Martha Musa
On September 8, Nigeria joined other countries of the world in celebrating the international Literacy day.
The event which was first organised in September 1965, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is a step aimed at promoting education for all in various parts of the world.
Consequently, on that day, each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally with celebrations taking place around the world.
According to UNESCO’s “Global Monitoring Report on Education for All (2006)”, South and West Asia have the lowest regional adult literacy rate representing 58.6 per cent. This figure was closely followed by sub-Saharan Africa which has 59.7 per cent, and the Arab States came next with 62.7 per cent.
The report revealed that the Countries with the lowest literacy rates in the world are Burkina Faso with 12.8 per cent, Niger with 14.4 per cent and Mali, with 19 per cent. The report shows a clear connection between illiteracy and severe poverty, and prejudice against women.
In a recent report by the United Nations, 775 million adults lack minimum literacy skills; one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women. Out of the United Nation’s number of 60.7 million children that are out of school, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has added that Nigeria alone has 10.5 million out of school children.
The report which was given during this year’s celebration of the international Literacy day further stated that the number of out of school children has continued to be on the increase, especially in the Northern part of the country, where 60 per cent of the out of school children are girls.
According to the UNICEF report, “Due to violence and security challenges, particularly in the north east, many parents have withdrawn their daughters from classes or are unwilling to enrol them, while many schools have closed down”.
“Almost one out of three primary-age and one in four junior-age children are out of school in Africa’s most populous nation of about 170 million, according to UNICEF. Schools which remain open in the north east are often overcrowded, understaffed and under resourced”, the statement added.
Although the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, has said there are no accurate figures for the children or illiteracy figures, the 2012 status report by the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education (NMEC) which revealed that 38 per cent of 164,294,516 Nigerians are illiterate, representing 63,213,272 which has not happened the situation.
Instead, the high cost of education in the country has further heightened the problem with most “Mean Parents” preferring to use their children for economic activities, rather than having to spend more to put them in schools.
In this report, our correspondent tries to put together the opinions of Nigerians in the search for quality education: According to Samuel S. Amos, a student of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, from the department of Mechanical Engineering, “The standard of education in Nigeria is poor and very expensive, with little or no facilities, for very good educational projects like research centres and qualitative Lecturers”.
According Emmanuel Deborah, also a student of the University of Ilorin studying political science, “the standard of education in Nigeria is below standard compared to countries like Canada and other developed countries. I have a lot of Friends studying in Canada, some of them are even studying the same program, as myself, but if they tell you what their curriculum is like and the kind of programme that they have, you will not believe it; when compared to the case in Nigeria,” he says.
In the same vein, Williams Monday Ngoyin a student of the Abia State University said, “The standard of education in Nigeria is below average”. He is of the view that the standard of education may be improving but generally below international standard.
Jophet Aloma Jasper, a Delta state indigene is of the view that the standard of education in Nigeria is mostly dependent on the State of the person in question.
Celebrations of International Literacy Day included specific themes, in line with Education for All goals and other United Nations programs such as the United Nations Literacy Decade. The celebration’s theme for 2007 and 2008 was “Literacy and Health”, with prizes awarded to organizations at the forefront of health education.
Each year, UNESCO attaches something to the theme to emphasise the broad importance of education in the affairs of people, world over.
In the theme for this year’s International Literacy day; which was ‘Literacy for sustainable development’, UNESCO tries to draw the minds of people across the world to the place of education in the quest for sustainable development. Thus the United Nations tried to emphasise that there is higher need of education in most developing countries, where basic amenities for education are ironically low, with an increasing rate of political instabilities in most of these countries, thereby worsening the situation.
From the comments of the students across the country, it is obvious that those in the receiving end of the academic field are not happy with the current standard of education in Nigeria.
But the most disturbing reality may not exactly stem from the fact that the students are unhappy, but from an even more disturbing reality that the nature of crises in Nigeria may have an even more protracted effect on education, than anticipated.