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How parents’ illiteracy contributes to out-of-school children menace

The low literacy rate among adults and youths has become a serious concern as experts deduced that it also contributes to the high number of…

The low literacy rate among adults and youths has become a serious concern as experts deduced that it also contributes to the high number of out-of-school children (OSC) in Nigeria.

Adult literacy rate is the percentage of people from the age of 15 who can both read and write, with understanding, a short simple sentence about their everyday life.

The federal government has estimated the rate of literacy as 69 percent, meaning 31 percent are still illiterates, which is quiet a high number, showing that more needs to be done to improve on it towards achieving the required education goal of achieving over 90 per cent literacy.

A breakdown of data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has shown that the northern part of the country has the lowest number of literates with Yobe State having the lowest literacy level of 7.23 per cent, Zamfara 19.16 per cent, Katsina 10.36 per cent and Sokoto 15.01 per cent, while the Southern states have higher literacy level with Imo State topping with 96.43 per cent, Lagos 96.3 per cent, Ekiti 95.79 per cent, and Rivers 95.76 per cent.

The above statistics showed a huge gap between the regions and thus increase the need for action to close the gap that exists in order to also tackle the challenge of out-of-school children in the country.

In a move to address the literacy gap, the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non- Formal Education (NMEC) engaged stakeholders in a meeting in Abuja on Tuesday towards achieving the required literacy rate.

The Executive Secretary of NMEC, Prof. Simon Akpama, speaking at the event with the theme: ‘Addressing the Challenges of Data Collection, Out-of-School Children/Youths,’ said the meeting was for change-makers, united by their commitment, to advancing literacy across our nation.

He said they are conscious of the irrefutable fact that youth and adult literacy constitute the fountain from which the embarrassing out-of-school children syndrome emanates.

“In essence, policies and strategies which undermine NMEC’S youth and Adult illiteracy eradication programmes advertently threaten genuine efforts at tackling the out-of-school children syndrome in Nigeria,” he said.

According to him, the assertion underscores the importance of collective action in addressing one of Nigeria’s most pressing challenges: ensuring that every youth and adult has the opportunity to achieve literacy.

While noting that literacy is not merely the ability to read and write, he said “it is the foundation upon which we build our future. It empowers individuals, strengthens communities, and promotes sustainable development.”

The executive secretary said their priority while discussing on the way forward is on the millions of Nigerian youths and adults whose future they have the power to transform, saying, “Their dreams and aspirations are inextricably interwoven with the literacy opportunities we strive to provide.”

The essence of the engagement is to call on all stakeholders to support government so that we can eradicate illiteracy and mold the youths and adults of this country, he added.

He said many factors contribute to increasing illiteracy rate in Nigeria which includes the fact that the population of Nigeria is increasing and because of this increasing population on the country, the illiteracy rate also increases.

Other factors, according to him, is that most private individuals and organisations are not supporting government enough as government alone cannot fund education.

He called on international partners and other private organisations to support government by funding the recruitment, retention and remuneration of facilitators, who are mostly teachers in the educational sector. He also opined that most state governments are not committed to employing and retaining facilitators. So, the persuasion in literacy service delivery is slow, especially from the individual level.

An educationist, Micheal Ojonugwa, said there is a thin line between addressing the rate of literacy and out-of-school children challenge in the country.

He said when you get a high number of our adults and youths educated, they will in turn push for the education of their wards and relatives, which will in turn raise the literacy level, and thus reduce the number of out-of-school children.

He said many factors can be responsible for high illiteracy rate, chief of which is poverty as many parents are not able to rise above the poverty level. They occupy their minds with what to eat and not going to school.

Ojonugwa said the current concern is that of insecurity in the country where students and teachers in schools are being targeted for kidnapping and killings in most cases. So many will rather stay at home and be safe than being abducted in the name of getting education.

He said: “The gap in the literacy level among regions points to the fact that serious attention is needed in areas with low number and believe me, if the literacy rates can be improved proportionately, insecurity will be a thing of the past because many who perpetrate this act are illiterates and people who feel marginalized.”

While noting that Nigeria’s literacy level is supposed to be far higher than where it is currently, he said, “but the country being challenged by insecurity, poverty, and other vices will have to channel its efforts in addressing the challenges before you can improve on the literacy level.”

An Education Officer, who supervises adult education centres in Abuja, but does not want to be named, said many of the centres have little turnout because of lack of awareness and poor knowledge of how important getting educated at adult level is.

She said many adults are now paying more attention to businesses and menial job than going to school.

“But you cannot blame them because the poverty in the land is affecting everyone and people need to feed before they can make informed decisions,” she said.

She said governments at all levels need to invest more in adult education if they must improve the literacy rate in the country while also calling on wealthy individuals to help in turning the sector around.

Speaking at a National Stakeholders’ Engagement, the Minister of State for Education, Dr Yusuf Sununu, said there must be a holistic approach toward improving the quality of knowledge and giving certificates to the adults and non-formal schools.

“The way forward for us is to pay attention to education and this is not only for children but holistic in adults and non-formal education, and this education must be backed with certification,” he said.

The minister said: “We are trying to see how we can improve the quality of knowledge and certificate that can be giving to our adults and non-formal schools. We also want to incorporate skills acquisition into it so that they can also have skills to stand for it.”

Sununu added that there was a need to begin to create an awareness campaign that would help parents understand the importance of an educated society.

“For you to have educated children, you must have an educated family. We have seen a lot of families who were wealthy, but unfortunately, education is not their priority and they have to hire people outside to even make documentations for them. So, this goes to show that there is direct relationship of the education of the offspring to that of the parent and therefore, this government is paying much attention to adult education,” he said.

Sununu said that Imo and Lagos states have remained at the top of states with highest literacy rate while calling on states like Zamfara, Yobe and the rest to follow suit. He advised the states with high number to work towards maintaining their position and those below to try and catch up.

Meanwhile, the Chairman House Committee on Alternative Education, Hon. Ibrahim Mustapha expressed the commitment and support of the National Assembly in achieving an educated society.


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