by Onome Onodarho
A nation is only as good as its people. As a country, we need to find effective ways to reduce the current level of illiteracy.
During the course of my service year, I had the privilege of working in the customer service unit of one of the banks in Nigeria.
The biggest challenge I faced was the high level of illiteracy in Nigeria. Many people are unable to express themselves clearly both in the English language or ‘pidgin’ English. They could only speak in their local dialects. Filling out the most basic forms was also a challenge for them. This cut across different age groups. I could understand why some of the older people were unable to communicate with me, many being within my mother’s age bracket or older. My sense of disillusionment lies with the younger generation. The youths were beyond comprehension.
The 2012 Education For All Global Monitoring Report shows disturbing statistics on the education situation in Nigeria. The report states that “Almost half the world’s out-of-school children live in just twelve countries. Nigeria is number one on the list with 10.5million children.” The number of illiterate adults has risen by over 10 million between 1991 and 2010.
These figures though shocking are sadly true as I experienced quite a few while working in customer service.I had two very shocking episodes.
In one experience, a young lady chatting on a blackberry phone walked up to me and said, ‘my “NTN” no dey work again’. I told her I didn’t understand and behold she brought out her ‘ATM’ card. I looked at it, only to realize that it had expired and I had to explain to her the conditions for a renewal. Twenty minutes after I had given the ‘Blackberry user’ a form to fill, she walked up to me and said, ‘I no fit write abeg help me’. The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘what have you been typing on your blackberry?’.
Another shocking experience involved a young couple who came to open an account (the account opening package is three sheets of paper). I gave them the forms and asked if they could handle the process of filling the forms and the young man boldly stated that he could. Two hours later the young couple returned the forms to me, barely filled out.
A nation is only as good as its people. As a country, we need to find effective ways to reduce the current level of illiteracy. We need to realize that, although the government has a huge part to play, we the citizens also have a corresponding role. The government has to ensure that there is compulsory education at the primary and secondary levels nationwide.This policy has to go beyond words. As for those older than school age, adult literacy classes could be organized by churches and NGOs.
We may not all be graduates of higher institutions, but we must ensure that we increase the literacy levels of our people. This will help to make Nigeria a better place.
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