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Inequality: Nigeria’s silent crisis

It bears no repeating that illiteracy begets poverty and thus the reason why a nation whose hallmark is illiteracy is most unlikely to defeat it.…

It bears no repeating that illiteracy begets poverty and thus the reason why a nation whose hallmark is illiteracy is most unlikely to defeat it. It is instructive to note that a good dose of illiteracy added to poverty brings about social inequality. Citizens will not have equal access to especially quality education and affordable quality healthcare service delivery. This condition increases both political inequality and crime rate thereby laying the foundation of an overall social crisis. And this is the situation of Nigeria today. For decades, the nation has been seated idle watching illiteracy become prominent on Nigeria’s shores. The basic public school system is grounded just as the public higher education is either of low quality or too expensive for everyone to access.  

In the tripod stand, Nigeria’s literacy rate stands at 62.2% (2018) but ranking top on the global list of out-of-school children. Ironically, the percentage looks good but the fact that about 20 million children are roaming on the streets gives genuine reason for concerns. Additionally, there is the matter of regional disparities. The inequality at the national stage is very conspicuous. Due to literacy rate disparities, certain states have more advantage than others. For instance, Yobe State has as low as 7.23 per cent literacy level. It is the lowest in the country; Katsina 10.36%, Sokoto 15.01%, Zamfara 19.16%, Bauchi 19.26%, Kebbi 20.51%, and Niger 22.88%. However, there are other states with enlightening indices. Imo, Lagos, Ekiti and Rivers states respectively have 96.43%, 96.3%, 95.79% and 95.76% literacy rates.  

The above picture means despite the fact that Nigeria’s illiteracy rate stands at 37.8%, there is the urgent need to take drastic measures that will help take the 20 million out-of-school children to classrooms. It also says that the northern states of the country are the most academically disadvantaged with Zamfara having just 7.23% literacy rate. The level of poverty and therefore inequality in Zamfara, Yobe, Katsina, Sokoto, Bauchi and Kebbi states is better imagined. The terrible insecurity situation in these states is thus not unexpected. More so, the level of insecurity in the country generally, is as much expected. The country is in silent crises caused by growing inequality.  

And it is most disturbing that because leadership has lost meaning in Nigeria, the political will to address this problem of gigantic proportions is obviously not there. At every election circle, the same promises of better education, accessible and affordable quality healthcare, pipe borne water supply, adequate refuge clearing system, revitalised civil service, etcetera, are made during political campaign rallies. After elections, all the promises are forgotten and the matter of development is thrown overboard. But certain issues are too important to be left unattended to.

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Education, healthcare, agriculture, infrastructure and sanitation are areas which every government must prioritise to ensure sustainable growth and development. Education is on its knees in this country. Many teachers in this country are not qualified to teach. In fact, for obvious reasons, many are teaching only because they have no option. The working conditions for teaching are not favourable – salaries are not adequate, education infrastructure is grossly inadequate, there are no teaching and learning materials and most pupils and students are malnourished. With this grim picture, it is obvious that the nation is in silent crises and all it takes should be done to save Nigeria from the drift towards uncertainties.

Jarmajo wrote from Abuja.  

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