Boosting Literacy Via Adult And Non-Formal Education

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By Obike Ukoh

Analysts observe that successive governments in the country have acknowledged the need for increasing Nigeria’s literacy rate through mass literacy, adult and non-formal education.

They note that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), puts illiteracy rate in the country at 38 per cent, a development that stakeholders say poses a serious challenge to national development.

Besides, UNESCO reports that the number of illiterates over the age of 15 is 25 million people, noting that if the rate continues to rise, the country may not be able to reach a technologically competitive standing in the world.

Stakeholders, therefore, opine that the Federal Government established the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education (NMEC) through Decree 17 of 1990 to address this challenge.

They also observe that Nigeria joined the forum of E-9 Countries — populous countries with large illiteracy population—at its inception to further reduce its illiterate population.

The E-9 Countries are Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, Indonesia and Mexico that uphold cooperation on how to reduce the rate of illiteracy among them.

Observers express pleasure on Nigeria’s membership of the group, observing that UNESCO has raised the awareness that an individual who is literate is bound to possess concrete thinking and can learn new materials.

They insist that literacy remains a powerful tool for organising, extending and providing resources for transformation.

Considering the importance of literacy therefore, stakeholders insist that NMEC should be empowered to enable it to boost the country’s literacy rate.

For instance, Mr Aminu Suleiman, the Chairman House Committee on Education, in the 7th National Assembly, underscored the need to prioritise non-formal education and mass literacy in the country by the commission.

Speaking when he visited NMEC headquarters in Abuja, he said that with the current performance of the commission, it could do more with increased budgetary allocation.

Suleiman observed that the commission had given education to four million Nigerians between 2008 and 2011 through its mass literacy programme.

“You deserve applause for the four million Nigerians you have educated since 2008,’’ he told the commission.

In his response, the Executive Secretary of NMEC, Alhaji Jibrin Paiko, said that raising mass adult literacy required the mobilisation of efforts and resources.

“The commission is judiciously using the Fund-in-Trust of 6.4 million dollars with UNESCO,’’ he said.

Paiko explained that the fund was for developing and coordinating the implementation of the Revitalising Adult and Youth Literacy (RAYL) project in Nigeria from 2012 to 2015.

He explained that the goal of the project was to accelerate and support the national efforts to achieve Education For All.

He further noted that the project would ultimately contribute to the achievement of national goals of empowering people, wealth creation and economic growth.

Paiko said that the programme had contributed significantly to literacy programmes in 36 states and FCT, particularly in the area of enrolment and number of adult learners.

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“RAYL project has been able to achieve 65 per cent of the five million people projected to be made literate,’’ he said.

He also said that enrolment had been increasing since 2012, 2013 and 2014 due to intervention of RAYL in mass literacy and many enlightenment campaigns across the country.

He said that the commission had four programmes designed to meet the learning needs of adult and youths who desired literacy across all local government areas.

“The programmes are Basic Literacy (equivalent to primary 1-3), Post Literacy (equivalent to primary 4-6), Continuing Education/Extra Mural Studies (equivalent to JSS 1-3) and Vocal Education,’’ he said.

In spite of this, analysts and stakeholders insist that government had not adequately funded NMEC to enable the commission to deliver on its mandate of eradicating illiteracy, noting that there had been dwindling capital budgetary allocation to the commission since 2013.

For instance, Suleiman said that in the 2013budget, N240 million was appropriated to the commission for capital budget but N159.69 million was released.

“Also in 2014 budget, N306.92 million was appropriated but N180.22 million was released.

“In 2015, N370 million was appropriated while as at April, no money was released to the commission for its capital projects,’’ he said.

Stakeholders note that non-proper funding of NMEC can hinder the aspiration of the Federal Government to eradicate illiteracy.

They also observe that the achievement of Universal Primary Education is not possible without functional adult and non-formal education programmes.

Sharing similar sentiments, Prof. Hassana Alidou, UNESCO Country Director, decried the poor funding of mass literacy programmes in the country.

Speaking at a recent workshop in Abuja, she said that the low quality of basic education contributed to the decline of literacy in the country, especially among youths and adults.

“Special attention must be paid to these people to enable them to rejoin the formal education system,’’ she stated.

She also said that inadequate funding of mass literacy had affected the education system in the country.

Alidou insist that appropriate authorities must devise a method of mobilising necessary investments in literacy and non- formal education.

Stakeholders, nonetheless, believe that Nigeria’s membership of E-9 Countries is an indication that the Nigeria is desirous of making the country first among the developed nations.

They support Alidou’s viewpoint and call for increased commitment towards the reduction of non-literate population in Nigeria.

According to them, it is very important to acknowledge non-formal education as an essential part of educational process.

“The commitment to funding non-formal education is the sure way in which Nigeria can achieve the Education For All and the Millennium Development Goals by 2020,’’ they note.

—Ukoh wrote this analysis for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).