By Omowumi Samuel
The Nigerian government has pledged its support to tackle and address the menace of illiteracy in the country.
The Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman, gave the commitment at a news conference in Abuja on Friday, to commemorate the 2023 International Literacy Day.
The theme for this year’s celebration is tagged: ”Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies”.
According to the Minister, it was imperative to find out the patterns of transformation and adjustments that had formally characterized education globally, as a result of its complexity and shift in paradigm.
Mamman further stated that one of the top priority of the Tinubu led administration was eradicating illiteracy from the grass roots, adding that the ministry would give all it takes to actualise the goal.
He said: “We have a new government in place. This government is determined to do things differently to make Nigeria achieve what it has not achieved since independence.
“The matter of illiteracy is one of the top priorities of the President, which we put forward at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting. The President does not want a single Nigerian to remain illiterate”.
According to Prof. Mamman, “Illiteracy is a scourge, a disease, and we are not going to allow it to continue. We have the directives of the President and our own personal resolve”.
“In days and weeks ahead, we will be engaging the public, we have policies on the ground, but what has been the problem is the delivery of those policies. We will not allow any obstacles in our ways from achieving these goals,” he added.
On his part, Dr.Stephen Onyekwelu , the National Programme officer and Literacy, UNESCO regional office, Abuja, disclosed that UNESCO had earlier supported Nigeria in mapping out the ministerial strategies plan in addressing illiteracy.
Onyekwelu further revealed that the body had also supported the country through the spotlight initiative where over 200,000 women and girls have acquired the basic skills of reading and writing, also some have been mainstreamed back to school, while some were equipped with skills acquisition.
He noted that UNESCO had also aided the ministry in reviewing the HIV policy and currently supporting mass literacy, reviews of informal education in the country.
Meanwhile, the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, stated in her message that the world had achieved giant strides in closing the illiteracy gap, adding that UNESCO would continue to strengthen efforts in countries all over the world.
“In the space of 40 years, significant progress has been made. 3.6 billion people have learnt that to read and write, raising the global literacy rate from 68 per cent in 1979 to 86 per cent in 2020.
“However, the current situation is still rife with injustice and inequality. At the halfway point in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 244 million school-age children are still not in school.
“98 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 773 million adults still cannot read or write; two thirds of them women.
“Over and above illiteracy, learning gaps still too often lead to incomplete literacy: six out of ten children attending school at the age of ten cannot read and understand a simple text,” she added.
However, over 56 million of the country’s population are still unable to read and write, hence the current high statistics of non-literate population alongside the number of out-of-school children calls for urgent intervention.It is expedient that in eradicating the menace of illiteracy, there must be improved funding, adequate resources and better attention to the non-formal education sector.