BY LAJU ARENYEKA
Mixed reactions have trailed Federal Government’s allocation of the sum of $6.43 million (N1.03bn) to a Trust Fund for the delivery of quality literacy programme for an estimated 40 million illiterate Nigerians.
The Executive Secretary, National Commission for Mass Education, Alhaji Jibrin Paiko who made this known to Press men earlier this week explained that the project was captured under a three-year strategic framework (2012-2015), aimed at revitalising adult and youth literacy project.
He added that it was designed to meet the education for all (EFA) goals and education- related Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) target by the year 2015.
Although the project might seem laudable at a distance, stakeholders are looking at this gift horse in the mouth. The National Chairman, Nigerian Union of Teachers, Mr. Michael Alogba believes that the funds might go a long way in reducing mass illiteracy if they are properly utilised.
“It is not allocation that matters,” the NUT boss said; “our leaders tend to make a lot of noise when it comes to money. Before you know it, the money will develop wings and fly away. If these funds will be adequately monitored, they can make a large difference in addressing the issue of mass illiteracy, but if there is no monitoring, the situation will remain the same.”
Some others are of the opinion that N1.03bn is grossly inadequate for the job ahead. The Secretary, Joint Action Front (JAF), Mr. Abiodun Aremu said; “That money is nothing compared to the large number of beneficiaries to be educated. We know that we have a shockingly high number of illiterate Nigerians, but we do not even know how many. There is need for a ‘Needs Assessment’ in all segments of the education sector. Releasing this money is just a gamble when you don’t know what exactly you are dealing with. Another issue is the fact that a lot of these people are not in the school environment. For such people, you need to employ multimedia technology. This amount is paltry compared to the work that needs to be done.”
On his part, the Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Ibadan Zone, Dr. Adesola Nassir shared similar views; ”They do not even know how many illiterate Nigerians there are, therefore allocating these funds will simply amount to an opportunity for corrupt government officials to fill their pockets. If they really want to tackle the issue of illiteracy, they must start from scratch.
“They must go back to the classrooms, to basic education to ensure that it is accurately funded. I agree that NEEDS assessment might be necessary in all levels of the education sector, just as it has been done for the universities. But even then, it doesn’t mean that the government will take it seriously. The Federal Government set up the NEEDS assessment committee for the universities, but even after the committee made its recommendation and agreed on how much is needed to fund the universities, the government did nothing.”