For over 40 years, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, (UNESCO) has been celebrating the International Literacy Day as a human right and foundation, with the aim of promoting literacy skill globally. But how well has this been actualised? What is the level of literacy in Nigeria? Samson Ele and Olamilekan Fakoyejo sought the views of some Nigerians on this and more.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, (UNESCO) described literacy as a right and a foundation for lifelong learning, better well-being and a driver for sustainable and inclusive development.
But some Nigerians feel that this might just be a far cry from what is presently the case in the country, as the literacy level is still very low as compared to what is obtainable in other climes.
Atumeyi Uwanni, security manager in a Lagos based firm, is of the view that the level of literacy in Nigeria is low and as such there is nothing really important about celebrating the day, “There is a great difference between the northern and western part of the country. The northern part is faced with chaotic challenges, war, conflicts and others. Christianity was brought about by western education, so there’s no how an educated person can be cajoled into killing his fellow human being and inherits an eternal life. There is nothing to celebrate on this day because the level of terrorism caused by illiteracy is high.”
Linking the current Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike and the commemoration of the international day of literacy, Uwani queried, “How can we celebrate Literacy Day in Nigeria with the present situation of ASUU strike that has been running for months? The government is not willing to spend on education, instead, they are politicking the issue. So what is it that has been accomplished to be celebrated for, compared to other countries?”
He spoke further: “It is not a day to celebrate; it should be a day of mourning for lack of proper education in this country. If other countries are doing it, we shouldn’t because education is all about invention, and we have not invented anything. Instead we make use of their used items like cars, aeroplane and others.”
Andrew Bini, a diction instructor at Drew company concept, believes that the literacy level is not as it should be, “I wouldn’t say we have done well for now because the level of illiteracy in Nigeria is not very high. The recent administration through a project tried to bring back the book initiative as a medium where people can get educated and increase the level of literacy, but it died before it all started. So I feel it should be marked but the effect of Literacy is not as it should.”
On his part, Tosin Alli-Balogun, a presenter with Eko FM believes that “If a country is well educated and groomed, then, it will really affect the country in all ramifications.”
Expressing his views about the word literacy, Chris Obodo, a lecturer at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) explained that literacy transcends reading, writing and other way of acquiring knowledge. It is the ultimate investment of any country in the future. It comes in terms of cultural value and social economic development plans.
Speaking on his views about the literacy level in Nigeria, Jack Amaso, also of NIJ said: “I don’t have any data or statistics to comment on, but on assumption, I think we are low.’
Femi Osuntoki, Broadcast lecturer, NIJ said, literacy goes beyond going to school to earn a degree, but the ability to think by yourself, develope your skill, know what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. The essence of it is to ensure adult could be able to read, write their names and think critically, “When you know when to talk, it means you are literate. So it goes beyond school; because when you hear a primary school student talk sometimes, you will think he or she is mature than their age. This literacy day is focused on adult, but these adults make use of their skill to hack, steal, and embezzle,” he explained.
For Jide Johnson, Head of Department, Mass Communication, NIJ, the literacy level in Nigeria is improving considering the number of graduates that the country produces every year, “We are getting better than where we were at independence,” he said.
He added, “The number of Nigerian students that have at least a school certificate in Nigeria is high, so you would agree with me that the literacy level is getting better. And it has helped the country develop slowly.”
But why do people need literacy skills? How is literacy shaped by culture, history, language, religion and socio-economic conditions? What are the impacts of technological advancement on literacy? Is it possible to determine in a diverse world a minimum set of basic literacy skills? These are some of the questions that UNESCO seeks to find answers to.
No wonder then that this year’s International Literacy Day is dedicated to “literacies for the 21st century” to highlight the need to realize “basic literacy skills for all” as well as equip everyone with more advanced literacy skills as part of lifelong learning.
As an organization that believes that literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring development, peace and democracy, UNESCO has been at the forefront of providing basic literacy skills and equips everyone with more advanced literacy skills as part of lifelong learning.
Speaking on this year’s occasion, the Director General, UNESCO, Irina Bokova, said: “Literacy is much more than an educational priority-it is the ultimate investment in the future and the first step towards all the new forms of literacy required in the 21st Century where every child is able to read and use this skill to gain autonomy.”
SOURCE: THE NATION