65 million Nigerians that cannot read or write. That’s the number that Prof. Abba Haladu, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Mass literacy, Adult and Non-formal education (NMAC) asserted in his most recent address to the National Assembly House Committee on Basic Education last week. Of that 65 million, Haladu asserts that 10 million are children of primary and secondary school age who are either receiving substandard education or none at all.
The numbers actually not surprising, for nearly a decade the United Nations International Children’s Fund has asserted that an estimated 10 million Nigerian children do not have access to basic education, a number corroborated by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in 2018. 65 million people without access to education are a huge burden on any country, but especially to Nigeria where an estimated 90 million people live in extreme poverty and have no hope of escaping poverty except through education.
How do we intend to solve this problem? No one is quite sure. The NMAC certainly cannot solve it as it has only 577 employees, with its last major recruitment happening in 2015.
What about ideas that others can implement? The commission suggests it is developing a mass literacy programme that will improve the level of literacy in the country. Until then, the government itself will just have to intervene.
“We are calling on the House Committee to collaborate with the Senate and Executive to see how the menace of illiteracy can be eradicated in Nigeria,” – Prof Haladu.
Yet another reminder, in case you needed one, that depending entirely on the government to solve any of the country’s problems is never a tangible solution. The problem of illiteracy especially for children transcends access to education. We must also improve the quality of life for all citizens so children aren’t forced to care for themselves or their families. Providing alternative informal education also has to become a priority as well as divesting ourselves of the baseless need to use English as a benchmark of literacy. Until we do that, these numbers will only keep rising. We are just beginning.