The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, has proclaimed September 8 every year the International Literacy Day. Expectedly, the day was given adequate observance by many nations. However, this year’s celebration of the Day in Nigeria was not with the usual pomp and pageantry. Some Nigerians have asked the question as to whether or not the country ought to join in the celebration.
Should Nigeria have joined in the celebration?
A teacher at a private school in Port Harcourt, Mrs Rhoda Amachree, answered in the negative. She said there was no reason to celebrate or mark the Day with other nations as Nigeria ranked very low in the literacy index. She sited the absence of many functional schools in the rural areas and literacy centres for those in need of adult education as reasons for her position.
“There is absolutely nothing to celebrate about Literacy Day in the country. The illiteracy rate is high and many schools lack teachers and materials. The quality of both teaching and learning has also dropped. So in this situation, how can any reasonable person say that we should celebrate World Literacy Day? As far as I am concerened we shouldn’t have if at all we celebrated it,” Amachree said.
There are many Amachrees in the country who think Nigeria should have nothing to do with celebrations of this nature.
With about 47.4 per cent illiterate population, some Nigerians said an aggressive approach such as the declaration of a state of emergency in the education sector was required to solve the current crisis in that area.
“With Nigeria facing the challnges of a huge illiterate population, lack of access and commitment by state and local governments to education, we don’t need a soothsayer to tell us that we have no husiness with the annual celebration of World Literacy Day”, stated an educationist, Dr. Ibifubara Igoni.
Igoni berated the low level of literacy which he said had translated into a high poverty level as well as ignorance. He attributed the non-active democratic practice in the country to the high illiteracy level, a situation, he said, had caused the inability of Nigerians to vote effectively. He blamed states and local governments for failing to educate their indigenes.
The Minister of State for Education, Barrister Nyesom Wike, took turn to criticize the state of education in the country. Flagging off the International Literacy Day in Abuja, the Minister regretted that education was not the priority of most states.
“It is not building roads, it is not building things that would not affect the development of a state. They are important but comparatively without those who are educated how would all these things be maintained? When you educate people, development is bound to come”, Wike declared.
Some stakeholders who spoke at different fora to mark the Day, criticized the Mass Literacy Commission for non-performance. Some advocated that it be scrapped while others suggested a merger with the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC. Few others called for increased funding of the commission to enable it perform optimally.
The Commission has the responsibility of setting-up literacy centres in the country, drawing curricula for school drop-outs and issuing guidelines for Quranic schools and adult and youth education. But hitherto it has been handicapped by poor funding.
Since President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office, has the literacy level improved?
Some analysts point to the index to the effect that education has not improved. While others admit considerable improvement.
However, the consistent mass failures in the Senior School Certificate Examination, SSCE, and the National Examination Council, NECO, Senior Certificate Examination are indications of the declining state of literacy in the country. Even the recent results released by WAEC which many applauded and considered the best in recent times, have been described as very disappointing”, hence the need to examine the circumstances and reasons for the results.
Mr. Owue Harry, a journalist and publisher, was alarmed that the nation and all relevant agencies failed to declare a state of emergency in the education sector because of the declining state of affairs in that sector.
“Nigeria’s education is in a hopeless state. I am surprised that there is no uproar. No declaration of a state of emergency. For the past many years, students who write certificate examinations have been unable to attain 20 percent success in the examination. I think the situation calls for national debate. A serious country would try and look at what is wrong and how it could correct the situation,” Harry added.
The journalist argued that whereas other countries invested heavily in education, Nigeria spent billions of Naira on politics and election rigging. He stated that the nation’s education sector needed urgent improvement.
“Our children cannot compete with children from other countries in the competitive global market. We seem to have no priorities in the country let alone get them right and this is what has made us hewers of woods and drawers of water for other countries. We have left what matters most which is education and dwelled immensely on mundane issues. Nigeria is 52 years old. Is it not shocking that there is no national anger over the state of education in the country?”, lamented Harry.
This year’s World Literacy Day presents an opportunity for Nigeria to carry out an introspection of the nation’s standing in bringing enlightenment and fostering knowledge and skill acquisition.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Literacy and Peace”. How apt it is to the contemporary unrests in the country. There is a nexus between security and literacy. The realization of this will promote peaceful co-existence and democratic culture.