Illiteracy is a plague that has ravaged the country for years, and in 2018, the future isn’t brighter than it was a decade ago. With the acceptance of Pidgin English by the global world as a means of communication in Nigeria, the country has seen an increase in the number of individuals who can communicate in English or Pidgin English which should be seen as a win for literacy in the battle against illiteracy. Contrary is the result, as the last ten years has seen an increase in the number of individuals who have mastered the art of communicating but fails consistently at both writing and reading.
Literacy can be defined as the ability to read and write at its most basic form, but in this current age, literacy goes far beyond this. Literacy in the 21st century entails not just reading and writing, or even speaking, it also involves the ability to manage, synthesize, and analyze mainstream information. An individual must be able to also create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media information, amongst many other things required of the 21st century individual. A lot of Nigerians lack this ability and it can be evident on social media. If you are chanced to witness an argument on a social media wall involving most Nigerians, one will find most often than not such arguments degenerating into insults and blocking threats. It leaves one wondering why people cannot simply share information based on different sources and perspective without reducing such exchange into a fest of denigrating insults being aimed at one another.
An average Nigerian today appears literate and educated but the reality is far from it. A fault that can be traced down to our citadels of learning in the country. UNESCO sees literacy as the ability to note, understand, make interpretations of what has been understood, creative, communicate ideas and put down these ideas either by use of print or written materials, for people to see and also assimilate. A lot of institutions from the primary level to the tertiary level fails a lot of teeming children on the most important values that are supposed to have been imparted on these kids from their tutors, while the government of the country fails to correct this malaise or provide a reliable and adequate structure for these kids to truly learn.
The literacy level of the country stands at 59% based on a survey conducted in 2017 (www.indexmundi.com), and amongst the literate 59%, only an estimated 18% can truly be regarded as truly literate based on a rough sample conducted at the foundation. While the Federal Government of the country has at numerous occasion lamented this woeful statistic of the Nigerian populace, they have not taken any palliative measures to arrest this woeful statistic. Most institution for learning form the primary level to the tertiary level are poorly planned, hugely substandard in terms of man-power, infrastructures, education materials and curriculum. Some will argue the wages paid to tutors in this section is partially responsible as most teachers are grossly underpaid, hence, schools can only attract mediocre quality of tutors into their institutions.
Some scholars have argued that while English still remains the lingua franca of the country, maybe it’s time the nation adopted the use of Pidgin English in teaching students in schools. Their argument is based on the premise that a more familiar language for communication will help students understand what they are being taught better. A notion that I believe might help reduce the scourge of illiteracy in the country.
A critical review of the country shows some parts of the country seems to be more educated and literate than some other parts of the country. The Northern part of the country accounts for the region in the country with the highest number of illiterates and has benefited from more affirmative actions in terms of education. This is a move that has failed the region and even worsened their literacy level has the barest minimum done is rewarded as against their counterparts in other regions. I believe every individual should be held up to the same standard to ensure the country continues to develop the very best minds. It is also no coincidence this region happens to be Nigeria’s poorest region.
The foundation of greatness for every nation lies in education, and education comes from different mediums which is not limited to schools alone. The children are the future of the nation, the living guarantee of the nation. We must endeavor to make them more than an empty promise but give our dedication to ensure every kid is properly educated with the requisite knowledge to know what it means to be literate in the 21st century, their role to their country amidst all the instability in the world, their part in preserving their heritage, and truly being a Nigerian.
We have consistently shown with the right tools, individuals from the country can be one of the smartest set of people in the world. It is high time the nation addresses this malaise and start supporting the education sector to enable it effectively tackle illiteracy in the country. I believe for any desirable change to truly be in place in Nigeria, first we need a massive revamp of the education sector for the people to understand their role in the development of the country.