BY DAYO ADESULU
The nose diving education sector in our country is posting a great challenge to its stakeholders as well as well meaningful Nigerians who have seen the backward trend as a bad omen to the future of our youths and the possibility of our nation actualizing the vision 20:2020
The 2006 National Schools Census suggested that about 5 million Nigerian children aged 6 to 11 do not access primary education. In 2009 the
Director General of the UNESCO, Mr Koichiro Matsuura, estimated the number of children out of school in Nigeria to be 6 million. In 2010 a report by the Global Campaign for Education claimed that over 8 million children in Nigeria were out of school. In 2010 UNESCO estimated that “the resources available for education in sub-Saharan Africa may have fallen by US$4.6 billion a year on average in 2009 and 2010”.
Against this backdrop, Alex Ekwueme Foundation has come up with a concept called “Donate A Book” (DAB) in order to curb the trend. The Director General of Alex Ekwueme Foundation, Dr Duke Igwilo who paid a courtesy visit to Vanguard corporate office, Lagos recently said that the Foundation is a non governmental organization that is saddled with the responsibility and vision of generating at least one million books for distribution to primary and secondary school libraries in Nigeria. He noted that the Foundation is launching a world-wide appeal for donation of categories books to help it establish a Book Bank for the benefit of the world.
The books, he said, are sorted out according to various educational levels and disciplines saying that the books will be donated to schools all over Nigeria based on recommendations by their Grants Committee.
To actualize the dream Duke maintained that the concept known as DAB was introduced to encourage everyone nationally and internationally to donate a book either hard copy or soft copy via uploading online into the website: donateabook.com. With this, he reiterated all and sundry will be encouraged to contribute their books, diaries, letters, novels, short stories, poems and essays to share with visitors at the site, thereby stimulating reading culture through writing.
According to Duke, “The Foundation will campaign to increase educational awareness and reading culture in Nigeria and lobby government to increase funding for education as the Foundation would also partner with international organisations and agencies that support the UNESCO’s ‘Education for All’ (EFA) initiative. Duke who frowned at the past governments in Nigeria for not giving adequate attention to the level of illiteracy and the declining state of schools, however seemed encouraged with the present government for proposing to set up a Presidential Commission on Education to arrest the down ward trend.
He lamented a situation in our tertiary institutions where textbooks have frequently been replaced by lecturers’ handouts because most of the books are too expensive for students to buy. Unfortunately he noted that the availability of information communication technology is not yet widespread, such that electronic versions of printed materials are not widely obtainable in Nigeria. Accelerating the movement towards the education MDGs, he maintained, will catalyze improvements in most of the other MDGs, especially those focusing on poverty reduction and health.
Asked where the organisation would generate fund, Duke pointed out that for the initial take off, the Foundation would solicit initial funds from potential beneficiaries towards the cost of the logistics involved in the procurement and distribution of the books. In the medium and long term, he noted that the Foundation hope to seek the sponsorship of corporations, regional donors and international agencies towards the achievement of the objectives of this scheme. In actualizing the objectives, Duke said he will welcome the partnerships with key players in Nigeria working in all areas of the Millennium Development Goals, especially in the areas of education, poverty eradication, and social and economic development.
Said he: “Building on experience gained through this scheme, the Foundation’s strategy for the future will include, to increase overall educational awareness in Nigeria and generate a reading culture among students, especially those from poor and deprived backgrounds. To influence policy makers at both state and national level in Nigeria towards favourable educational policies that would promote inclusion of those out of school. To create and operate an Endowment Fund for the continuation of the scheme and other educational programmes of the Foundation.”