BY LAIDE AKINBOADE
ABUJA—Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday, said Nigeria’s adult illiterates have increased from 25 million in 1997 to 35 million in 2013.
Wike stated this at a ministerial briefing to commemorate the 2013 International Literacy Day themed “Literacy for 21st century.”
He said Nigeria had over 10.5 million children out of school which, according to him, is embarrassing to the nation.
He said: “Indeed, the embarrassing literacy statistics on Nigeria, justifies the need for all stakeholders to redouble their efforts.
“The current Education for All, EFA, Global Monitoring report ranks Nigeria as one of the countries with the highest level of illiteracy.
“The report on Nigeria stated that the number of illiterate adults has increased by 10 million over the past two decades, to reach 35 million.
“Besides, Nigeria has the highest number of out of school children put at 10.5 million and based on this premise that the Ministry of Education has intensified effort in the task of eradicating illiteracy. The non-formal education sector, implementation of programmes for revitalising adult and youth literacy have begun.”
The Minister of State tasked state and local governments to redouble efforts at eradicating illiteracy in the country.
He said the eradication of illiteracy in the country should not be left in the hands of the federal, state and local governments alone.
“It is important to note that the bulk of the task of eradicating illiteracy in most of the E-9 countries like India, China, Brazil and Indonesia among others is borne by non-governmental organisation.
“The era of leaving such sensitive issues of our national life entirely in the hands of government is gone. This is the time to reiterate the importance of literacy to the individuals and our national life. The importance of literacy speaks for itself. ”
He identified literacy as one of the key solutions to some of the nation’s challenges, adding that “literacy as we all know is one of the solutions to our national challenges of insecurity, poverty, poor health condition, among others.”
Wike said: “This requires commitment and funding, and when you see lot of state governments emphasising most of their budget on issues that cannot help in reducing the level of illiteracy, it means that at the end of the day, instead of literacy reducing, it will be increasing, building roads and bridges, are important but if you scale your priorities you will know that education is very, very important.”
“So the only way we can solve this problem is to take formal and informal education as an emergency, it is very, very necessary and anything short of that, we will not be able to achieve any meaningful result but unfortunately, it is something that is within the ambit of state and local government, it is not the responsibility of federal government but the federal will surely do her part”.
“If we allow the level of illiteracy to continue to increase, as it increases, it poses security problems, and when this happens, you cannot govern, and when you cannot govern, the investors cannot come, and when the investors cannot come, there will be no employment”.
Alhaji Jibrin Paiko, Executive Secretary, National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education, NMEC, said basic literacy had the potential of liberating individuals and families from poverty, ignorance and diseases.