The Children of the World are innocent, vulnerable and dependent. They are also curious, active and full of hope. Their life should be full of joy and peace, of learning, playing and growing. Their future should be shaped in harmony and co-operation. Their lives should mature, as they broaden their perspectives and gain new experiences. But for many children, the reality of childhood is entirely different. Some parents make their children to be illiterates.
In the words of former American President - Bill Clinton, during the the celebration of International Literacy Day in 1994, "Literacy is not luxury; it is a right and responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our Citizens".
Available data indicates that there are now close to 4 Billion literate people in the world. Illiterate is someone who has not learned to read or write. Illiteracy is not just by being not able to read or write because everyone is being born blessed with one thing or the other, surely if you can't read or write in a particular language you are an illiterate in that language.
The problem here is don't be the worst illiterate - someone that can't read or write any particular language, and that is worse and serious but to be educated eliminates the illiteracy. You can be illiterate Politically, Scientifically, Economically, etc.
In Nigeria, in-spite of efforts by all tiers of Governments to address rising illiteracy levels, there has not been a progressive increase in the literacy level, especially among the Adults. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Adult illiteracy rate in Nigeria Stands at 56.9%. The implication of this is that about 70% of Nigerians are illiterates. Considering the fact that Globally the illiteracy rate is approximately 20%, the Nigerian situation is rather disturbing.
The country Comparison Index of literacy level by country in 2012 further testifies to the worrisome literacy situation in the country as it shows that Nigeria ranked 161 out of 184 countries with 66% literacy rate. This implies that we belong to the mainstream of the world's most illiterate countries. A recent USAID study also indicates that an estimated 10 million Nigerian children are not registered in school. A disclosure by a former minister of state for Education - Chief Nyeson Wike, equally indicates that the number of adult who can't read and write in the country is estimated at 60 million, which is about 38% of the country's population estimated at 170 million. The revelation was made by Wike at the Flagging off of the 2014 International literacy day.
The declining fortune of literacy ration among Nigerian children is, indeed an embarrassment to the nation as we currently have over 10.5 million children out of school. The current Education for All (EFA) global monitoring report on Nigeria affirmed that the Number of illiterate Adults has increased by 10 million over the past two decades, to reach 35 million. The current literacy trend in Nigeria, if not speedily halted, could obstruct the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's). As it has been earlier asserted, literacy is vital to the achievement of every growth index. The way things stand, the objective of meeting the national mark of reducing illiteracy by 50% by 2015 seems largely unattainable.
Illiteracy is an obstacle to a better quality of life. As a social canker-worm, it has yielded several uncalled and inconsequential stigmatizations among humanity, both in the past and present, thereby leading to series of unimaginable and uncontrollable violence or crises. Undoubtedly, several people in the world have derailed in their respective pursuits, one is considered a vulnerable being, is exposed to numerous maltreatments or abuses, including:
- Drug Abuse, just to mention but a few.
Frankly, the dangers of illiteracy cannot be over emphasized. Illiteracy has led to social, economic, cultural, religious, and political mayhem at various levels of human endeavor. Many people want to have children but only few make them literate and take good care of them. If you are blessed with kids why can't you take good care of them. If you are illiterate don't make them be like you, make them literate to be blessed with the light of knowledge.
Part of the millennium development goals regarding Universal Basic Education is aimed at ensuring that every human being, especially a child, has the opportunity to make a better life. Unfortunately, too many children in the world today grow up without this chance because they are denied their basic right to even attend Nursery or primary school.
I have a friend who complained to me about one Man and his Wife, who are both illiterate. They have 5 children, none of them is Nursery school talkless of Primary to Secondary School. If you talk to him about his children, why are they not schooling? He will reply, even the graduates with first class are not working, why must his children be in school? To him the school is useless if a graduate can't have a job in Nigeria. That his children will have something to do even if they are not educated as he said. But to us, we call them illiterate since they can't read or write.
I advise that it's not all things we depend on the Government. Despite the fact that we all know it's the responsibility of the Government to educate all - both the rich and the poor - regardless of their Religions. Some people have a good hand job that makes them self reliance and help them to take good care of their family, but that can't count you out of the illiterate box since you can't read and write in any aspect of hand job. In any business you need to be educated, at least to learn how to read and write. According to former United Nation Secretary General - Dr Kofi Anan, "Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a basic tool for daily life in modern society. It is a wall against poverty, and a building block of development. Literacy is a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity".
Nigeria is a huge country. In certain areas like Goal 1 (Universal Access to Learning), Nigeria is doing well but when you look at the out-of-school children, also the number of Youth and Adult who are illiterate, this tends to have a negative impact on the huge investment that Nigeria is making in basic education. According to the 11th EFA Global monitoring Report 2013/2014 Nigeria has the world's largest number of children out of school (10.5 million) and will likely be "off track by 2015". The report also noted that a key reason levels of Youth literacy remains low is due to peoples lack of access to quality education and the slow pace in the expansion of school systems. There is a need for Government to enhance capacity building at the state levels to tackle the challenges to quality education. It is not only at the federal level that investment should be made to address the issue of out-of-school children, Youth and Adults who are illiterate.
"Also at the state level and at the Local Government level that proper investment for now and the future should be made so that we don't talk about EFA, we talk about how to drastically eradicate this gap so that we have children, youth and Adults who have access to quality education for the development of Nigeria".
As a Northerner I can't deny it in the Northern Nigeria we have the highest number of Adults and children not in schools. Many Nigerians complain and talk much about the "Almajiri's" years back. What I know about the Almajiri is someone seeking for knowledge to be literate in Arabic language and to have much knowledge and understanding of Islamic religion. But these days it's an entirely different thing because most of them now turn into beggars. I call on the government in Northern Nigeria and Nigeria in general to find a way to educate Nigeria, because being educated is more than just being literate, because being literate is the ability to read and write, communicate in a particular language, so if someone can read, write and communicate in a particular language not necessarily English language then the person is literate in that language. So, someone can be called illiterate in any language he can't read, write or communicate in.
I call on the Government and our Traditional Rulers to enlighten people on how to start a good family, and how to plan their life and make Nigerians to see the light in knowledge. The Government should enlighten the villagers and advice them on how to eradicate illiteracy from their lives. If one person is educated, the light of his knowledge will not just be on him alone, the light will reflect to everyone around him and contribute to making Nigeria proud. You can help humanity light up those that are weak and poor with the blessings you have.
To eradicate illiteracy in Nigeria is not a job for one, but a job for all - you and me, the Government, Islamic Scholars, Pastors, NGO's to make a better and loving Nigeria. The Government should provide free Education for all and provide job opportunities for the graduates so as to encourage the youths to love being educated and not to be discourage when they see a graduate without a job.
It is imperative to reiterate that basic education and mass literacy are the functions of the States and Local Councils. The high percentage of illiterates in the country is as a result of the failure of the States and the Local Government Councils to live up to their responsibilities. The Government should provide Educational opportunities to have good citizens who can take up the challenge of development. Nigerians should know the greatest darkness here is being illiterate and the only light is to be Educated and eradicate illiteracy in Nigeria.
Long-live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Mujahid Saleh Saad
Write up from Bauchi State
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