By Simeon Nwakaudu
One critical area where the Federal Government is making slow, but deliberate gains of recent is in strategically developing the Non-Formal Education, NFE, sub-sector to ensure that millions of Nigerians from all walks of life have access to sound functional education.
The investments in this key sector have been targeted at the less privileged communities of the North and Southern Nigeria. Those who ordinarily would not access formal education, because of issues of poverty and other social challenges.
The increased focus on Non- Formal Education by the government stems from the fact that Nigerians can only contribute to the development process when they are educated enough to appreciate the efforts of government and its direction to better their condition of living.
Previously, the attention paid to non-formal education across the country has been below expectation. The situation has improved as the President, himself with a background in education, has stressed the importance of ensuring that the less privileged in our communities, rural and urban, have access to functional education through the non-formal education format.
The charge of the President in this regard is being implemented by the Minister of State for Education, Barr. Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, who upon assumption of duty, spelt out clearly to officials of the Federal Ministry of Education in the Basic and Secondary Education department and the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non- Formal Education, NMEC, that it would no longer be business as usual in the sub-sector.
The minister insisted that positive results must be achieved from the federal, to the states down to the local councils to reach out to Nigerians who are unable to access formal education through the existing school system.
At present, Nigeria has over 60 million illiterates. These are people without the basic literacy skills to contribute meaningfully to national development.
Available statistics indicate that 47 per cent of the nation’s adult population remains illiterate, while 22 million children are out of school, with majority of them being women. Wike believes that keeping such a large percentage of the population outside the radiance of literacy and education makes the task of national development more complex and burdensome.
According to him: “This further implies that if something drastic is not done to accelerate literacy and education for all Nigerians, Nigeria may not attain the 2015 Education for All goal and the MDGs; it may also fail to achieve the significant milestones of its developmental targets under Vision 20:20:20”.
Fundamentally, the goal that the Federal Ministry of Education is working towards presently under the direct supervision of Barr. Wike is to ensure that 10 million Nigerian illiterates are reached through the non-formal education format annually. The target is to reach out to 40 million illiterates to ensure that they have functional literacy skills within the next four years terminating in 2015.
The remaining percentage of the illiterates will be covered in the years after 2015, using clear-cut principles that have been laid out for the attainment of Education For All (EFA). Already, the NMEC and other technocrats in the Federal Ministry of Education have started the concerted implementation of the Presidential commitment to eradicate illiteracy in the country.
In the last eight months, the Federal Government has deliberately targeted those marginalized, deprived and excluded from the formal education system for access to basic education to improve their literacy skills. The NMEC and ministry officials have ensured that a critical percentage of the less privileged in urban slums and rural communities progressively come under tutelage through non formal education.
The unwavering commitment of the Federal Government to the realization of mass literacy for all Nigerians, irrespective of the circumstance of their birth is underscored by the release of N1billion self-benefitting fund to UNESCO, one of its development partners in this regard, to help drive the process of eradicating illiteracy in the country.
Simeon Nwakaudu is the Special Assistant (Media) to Minister of State for Education.