World Literacy Day: Matters Arising


Last Saturday, September 8, 2012 was World Literacy Day aimed at calling attention to

the need to raise the literacy level of nations across the world and equip the human race for the challenges of the age. Incidentally, very little was heard of the campaign across Nigeria.

Apart from some activities at the federal level that culminated in the distribution of some learning materials to school children, there was a near silence on the issue and there could not have been a better way of proving the commitment of the system to the all important subject of developing the human person.

In Rivers State, a non-governmental organisation, Centre For Development Support Initiative inspired by its Country Director, Mrs Mina Ogbanga,  made a difference by doing public enlightenment and distributing massive resources to members of the public. This commendable step should ordinarily attract more organisations and especially the participation of government at all levels.

The observance of the World Literacy Day should not be treated with less than the best attention because, apart from the fact that education is a right of every Nigerian, the huge percentage of illiterates in the country can no longer be explained.

It goes without saying that an illiterate population is a danger to itself and a ready tool in the hands of the devil all over the world. This is why the theme for this year’s celebration – “Literacy and peace” – has become so apt and compelling. For a country that is fast losing its peace to widespread terror campaign, The World Literacy Day provides the best wake up call.

Already, speculations that the quality of education in Nigeria was waning is beginning to be accepted with the failure of the system to rise to the occasion. It is also easily noticeable that the reading culture in the country is dropping and, even a Presidential effort at reversing the trend is not being followed up.

We are concerned that anytime literacy was discussed some people look only to the formal and even tertiary level of education, whereas millions of Nigerians just need to read and write, no matter the age. Many people just need to read street names and numbers or add up two figures to be able to function in the economy.

Also important is the need to attract people to the sector by the value ascribed to education as well as the nature of infrastructure and quality of teachers and by the standards enforced in the sector. Of more importance is the reversal of social values such that education does not continue to be seen as a dispensable factor in the success equation.

Agreed that these are not conditions that can be achieved over-night, they must however be  first appreciated as the necessary goal to achieve and consciously worked at through a multi-pronged approach. While countries like Nigeria wait for the individual to decide on how to go, nations like China with huge populations have almost fully mobilised her people for world dominance in all spheres.

Knowing the importance of education, Nigeria has come up with many policies that produced so little impact. The Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme which ought to have put paid to the problem of illiteracy  in the country in a number of years has continued to be implemented in the breach.

We think that these things should form a major source of concern for government at all levels in Nigeria. The commitment to developing the country without first developing the people would always constitute a natural hindrance to the Nigerian project. Indeed, studies have shown that literate people are easier to govern than their illiterate lot.

Experience has also shown that an educated people contribute more and better to any economy than those untrained to manipulate the opportunities of growth for maximum effect.

We feel so passionate about this matter because even the current security challenges can be traced in part to poor understanding borne out of illiteracy. A lot of the people convinced to commit suicide have no value of their lives because they are largely illiterate and sidelined by society.

This is why The Tide commends the Mina Ogbanga-inspired Centre for Development Support Initiative for making the much needed difference and urge others to invest on literacy schemes. Infact, we want to see an aggressive campaign on non-formal and adult educational activities across Nigeria, while the formal sector must also be seen to work, in addition to making the reward system put education as a priority at every level.