10.04.2012 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

Major push for adult and youth literacy in Nigeria

Representative of the Minister of State for Education, Mr Bergudo (standing) declares the workshop open (© UNESCO).

Nigeria is initiating a major push for revitalizing adult and youth literacy programmes in the country. The aim is to educate 4 to 5 million illiterate adults and 2 million out-of school children over the next three years.

The Government of Nigeria has mobilized $6,5 million and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UNESCO for implementing the 3-year project developed by UNESCO, and entitled Revitalizing Adult and Youth Literacy in Nigeria.

40 million illiterate adults

Illiteracy is a major concern in Nigeria, one of the world's most populous countries with an estimated population of close to 155 million people.

Some 40 million adults are illiterate and the overall literacy rate is close to 57 %. In addition, some 7 million children are out of school.

The need for literacy classes is hence huge. Today, only 500.000 are enrolled in adult literacy classes, which is equivalent to 1 out of 80 illiterate.

A top priority

"The revitalization of adult and youth literacy in Nigeria is one of our priorities and a major component of the transformation agenda of the present administration," said the Representative of the Minister of State for Education, Mr Bergudo

He spoke during a workshop organized by UNESCO to develop a comprehensive and strategic framework for implementing the ambitious literacy programme.

The workshop was organized in the Nigerian capital Abuja from 13-15 March 2012.

It gathered 116 participants including senior government officials from the Federal Ministries and specialized agencies concerned with education, planning, youth, literacy, as well as the representatives of civil society, academia, profssional bodies and the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS).

Will not meet the goals

UNESCO support Director of UNESCO Abuja, Joseph Ngu, commended the efforts of the Nigerian government.

"I pledge UNESCO's continued support in the deployment of its knowledge, expertise and technical assistance, to enable Nigeria achieve the international agreed goals and targets," he said.

Nigeria is listed as one of the African countries that will not achieve the Education for All goals by 2015.

Literate environment is key

Yao Ydo, chief and literacy expert at UNESCO's Regional Office in Dakar, noted during the workshop that creating a literate environment (including digital literacy) is the key prerequisite for successful literacy programmes.

"This can be achieved by promoting reading and writing for all ages, in all available and codified languages," Ydo said.

"What is important is that people use their literacy skills in their daily lives, otherwise they will forget it quickly," he said.

Mother tongue is best for learning

On multilingualism, Ydo stressed the need to balance mother tongue with international languages because competencies are better acquired by learners in their own indigenous languages.

"Reading materials which promote local knowledge and values as well as cultures and traditions should be developed to promote a multilingual literate environment at home, community, learning centres and work places," he added.

Various NGOs concerned with adult and youth literacy shared their experiences in the implementation of literacy programmes.

Roadmap to move forward

The workshop agreed on a roadmap for the project, including the set up of several task forces to deal with issues such as teaching materials, literacy environments, etc.

It was also recommended that the government of Nigeria declare the year 2013 National Literacy Year, and take measures to mobilize the country for this major literacy push.

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