Are there really 64 million illiterate adults in Nigeria? @YNaija investigates

by Adedayo Ademuwagun

Just over a week ago, a report which went viral claimed that there are 64 million illiterate adults in Nigeria. The report attributed the statement to Esther Uduehi, the head of the National Mass Education Commission.

That statistic made it look like Nigeria is predominantly composed of cave men, so we decided to query the statistic, and found that it is seriously flawed for the following reasons:

On April 30, New Telegraph published an interview they had with Esther Uduehi, the same person who is now reported to have said there are 64 million illiterate adults in Nigeria.

In that New Telegraph interview, she said that 40 million Nigerian adults are illiterate. Actually, even this figure is inaccurate (details below). But even then, it implies that between April and now — that’s five months — 24 million more people became illiterate in Nigeria. This is not possible.

The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, is the authority when it comes to national statistics in Nigeria. However, they don’t have a single piece of data that corroborates this media report that 64 million Nigerian adults cannot read or write. We spoke with the Statistical Information Officer, Leo Sanni, who confirmed this disparity to us. The only authoritative data domestically available about literacy rates in Nigeria comes from the National Literacy Survey carried out in 2010 by the National Bureau of Statistics in collaboration with the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non Formal Education, which Uduehi now heads.

The survey involved 100 households in every LGA in the country, totalling 774,000 households nationwide. The survey indicated that the national youth literacy rate was 86% and the adult literacy rate was 72%. More so, out of the 36 states plus FCT, close to three-quarter had an adult literacy of more than 70%. That’s a significant majority.

Tellingly, that was four years ago. It’s impossible that the literacy rates fell within the last four years. For instance, people who were literate four years ago cannot have become illiterate today, and births and immigration cannot have affected the literacy rates to any significant degree within this period. Rather, it’s reasonable to infer that the literacy rates have increased in the last four years.

It may be that Ms. Uduehi was misquoted and didn’t actually say that 64 million adult Nigerians don’t know how to read or write. But even if she did say that, it is clear that the statement is false.

The 2010 National Literacy Survey shows that the male literacy rate was remarkably higher than the female literacy rate (79% to 64%), and the literacy rate increased across the six geopolitical zones from North Central to South West.

Comments (12)

  1. I don’t believe it either.

  2. When. Will Nigeria problem stop?wht s not true

  3. When. Will Nigeria problem stop?

  4. we all know men are the olodo of this nation na

  5. An average nigerian is an illiterate. so?

    1. I m not that. Many Nigeria illIterate

  6. wrong statiatics

  7. So, how many literates do we have?

  8. 64million gini?

  9. It could be true

    1. When. Will Nigeria problem stop?

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