27.04.2017 - Education Sector

Spreading literacy and education through radio waves in Nigeria

©UNESCO Abuja

“My life has changed,” says Fati, a mother from Potiskum in Nigeria’s Yobe State. “Before this, I didn’t know how to write, count my money to buy things at the market and use for my business.”

Fati attended a UNESCO-supported literacy by radio programme in Nigeria. She says her business has grown and that she is managing her own finances ever since she started learning. “My husband and my children are happy. I’m able to send my children to school and buy them books.” Fati is also encouraging other women in her community to join the programme, go to school and learn literacy skills. 

Illiteracy in Nigeria is a major constraint to development. The UNESCO RAYL (Revitalising Adult and Youth Literacy) project is committed to the eradication of illiteracy in the country through the strengthening of the national capacity for designing, delivering, monitoring and evaluating quality literacy programmes using the radio.

The Nigerian Literacy by Radio project was initially pilot tested in 12 states, then later scaled up to 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The beneficiaries are out of school youths and adults, women, girls and those who have never been to school.  More than 16,700 learners were made literate through this project, with radio lessons available in English, Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba languages.

Fifteen-year-old Halima is another learner who acquired literacy skills through the radio programme. “I was working as a house help when I was nine and I did not have the opportunity to go to school,” she says. Halima started to listen to literacy programmes on the radio and became eager to learn. She eventually started attending school when her employers were not around. “Today I can read and write,” she says. “My employers were surprised to find out that I was learning and they encouraged me to continue. I have completed primary school and I’m currently attending junior secondary school. I thank God.”

Spreading literacy at the grassroots level

The UNESCO RAYL project started with a strategic advocacy network at different levels in the country with multiple stakeholders: state and local governments, Commissioners of Education, Heads of Government institutions, traditional institutions, civil society organizations and the media.  Gathering information and resources to organize enrolment drives is key to promoting non-formal education in Nigeria. The project conducted different capacity building programmes for more than 5,350 personnel such as trainers and grassroots facilitators. A national strategic framework for the RAYL project was developed and various teaching and learning materials were also revised, including, a handbook for master trainers, training modules for facilitators and other instructional materials for learners.

“Today I’m able to write and produce proper receipts for my boss,” says Paul, a learner at the Lagos Radio literacy centre who has been attending lessons for 9 months. “I’m now enjoying my work a lot more and I’m teaching others how to read and write.”

UNESCO has been at the forefront of global literacy efforts since its foundation in 1946. Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. Last year marked the beginning of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to further work on solutions in closing the literacy gap for millions around the world who still lack basic literacy skills.  

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