The children of the World are innocent, vulnerable and dependent. They are also curious, active and full of hope. Their lives should be full of joy and peace, learning, playing and growing. Their future should be shaped in harmony and co-operation and as they mature; their perspectives broaden as they gain new experiences.
Unfortunately, for many children, the reality of childhood is entirely different.
In the words of Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States Of America during the celebration of International Literacy Day in 1994,”Literacy is not luxury, it is a right and responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens.” Available data indicate that there are now close to 4 Billion literate people in the world.
An Illiterate is someone who has not learned to read or write. Being literate aids the process of education.
In Nigeria, despite efforts by all tiers of governments to address rising illiteracy level, little progress has been made, especially among adults. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Adult illiteracy rate in Nigeria Stands at 56.9%; the implication of this is that about 70% of Nigerians are illiterates, considering the fact that Globally the illiteracy rate is approximately 20%,the Nigeria situation is rather disturbing, Literacy is vital to the achievement of every growth index.
The country comparison Index of literacy level in 2012 further testifies to the worrisome literacy situation in the country as it shows that Nigeria ranked 161 out of 184 countries with 66 percent literacy rate. This implies that we belong to the mainstream of the world’s most illiterate countries. A recent United States Agency for International Development (USAID) study also indicates that estimated 10million Nigerian children are not registered in school. This is sn embarrassment to the nation. A disclosure by a former minister of state for Education, Nyesom Wike equally indicated that the number of adult who can’t read and write in the country is estimated at 60 million, which is about 38% of the country’s population. This revelation was made by Wike at the Flagging off of the 2014 International Literacy Day.
The declining fortune of literacy ration among Nigerian children means te nation may continue to have rising level of adult illiteracy.
The current Education for All(EFA)global monitoring report on Nigeria affirmed that the Number of illiterate Adults has reached 35milion over the past two decades and it not speedily halted, this could obstruct the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals(MDG’s)
Illiteracy is an obstacle to a better quality of life. As a social cankerworm, it has yielded several uncalled and inconsequential stigmatizations among humanity. This has led to a series of unimaginable and uncontrollable violence or crises. The illiterates are vulnerable and exposed to numerous maltreatments or abuses including humiliation, stigmatization, molestation, intimidation, extortion, drug abuse, just to mention a few. Frankly, the dangers of illiteracy cannot be over emphasized.
In modern times, illiterate people have limited opportunities to better themselves that is why some illiterate parents ensure that their children do not end up like them. Part of the millennium development goals regarding Universal Basic Education is aimed at ensuring that every human being, especially children have the opportunity to make better lives for themselves. Unfortunately, too many children in the world today grow up without this chance because they are denied their basic right to even attend nursery or primary school. The high percentage of illiteracy in the country is as a result of the failure of the states and the local government councils to live up to their responsibilities.
I have a friend who complained to me about one man and his wife, who are both illiterate. The couple has 5 children; of which none has basic education. If asked why the children are not in school, he replies that even graduates with first class are yet to find jobs, what will be the purpose of his children getting educated? To him the school is useless if a graduate can’t have a job in Nigeria; that his children will have something to do even if they are not educated. But sooner or later, he will regret his decision because he has limited the life choices of children. As the former United Nation Secretary General, Dr. Kofi Anan once said, “literacy is a bridge from misery to hope, It is a basic tool for daily life in modern society it is a wall against poverty, and a building block of development. Literacy is a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity”.
Nigeria is a large country. According to the 11th EFA Global monitoring Report 2013/14 a key reason for the low literacy level is due to lack of access to quality education and the slow pace in the expansion of school systems. It advocated for a need for government to enhance capacity building at the state levels to tackle the challenges to quality education. It is not only at the federal level that investment should be made to address the issue of out-of-school children and tackling Adult illiteracy. Also at the state and local government levels, proper investment should be made that will drastically eradicate the gap of access to quality education.
As a Northerner I can’t deny that Northern Nigeria has the highest number of adult and children not in schools. Years back, what I knew about the Almajiri system was someone seeking for knowledge to be literate in Arabic language and have much knowledge and understanding of Islamic religion but these days it is entirely a different thing because most of them have been turned to beggars, I call on the government in northern Nigeria and Nigeria in general to find a way to educate them, for the sake of the future of the north, and Nigerian is general. I call on the government and our traditional rulers to enlighten people on how to start and plan their families, so they bear only children they can cater for and see the need for education.
The government should also enlighten those in the urban areas on how to eradicate illiteracy from their lives. If one person is educated, the light of his knowledge will reflect to everyone around him. The government should provide free Education for all and provide job opportunities for the graduates so as to encourage the youths to see the need for education. The government should provide Educational opportunities to have good citizens who can take up the challenge of development. Nigerians should know the greatest darkness here is being illiterate and the only light is to be educated and eradicate illiteracy in Nigeria.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Mujahid Saleh Saad
Writes from Bauchi State.