Human capital investment will liberate Nigerian society, says Ezekwesili
…As Edo wins Lafarge National Literacy Competition
“If a society does not like what it looks like, the most important thing it can change is the education of its people. It is education that can redefine the society, it is education that can change the performance of the society, because education changes the performance of individuals and the individuals make up the society.”
This formed the fulcrum of the keynote address delivered by former World Bank Vice President, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili at the grand finale of Lafarge Africa National Literacy Competition, where pupils from Edo State emerged champions after the keen contest. Ondo team emerged second while Kano and Gombe secured third and fourth positions, respectively.
The winning team comprised of Yusuf Hassan of Eson Ne Rie Model Primary School, Benin City and Faith Toun-Agbai of Eghuare Primary School, Irrua. They received a cash prize of N250, 000 each in addition to a scholarship offer. The 12 finalists were drawn from the six geopolitical zones after the local, state and regional finals.
Ezekwesili challenged government and corporate organisations to rise to the call and begin to create programmes and initiatives that will increase literacy level of the citizens.
Reminding that literacy level is an indicator of economic performance, the former education minister said the literacy level of Singapore is climbing closer to 100 per cent, while that of Nigeria is 59 per cent.
“China has been able to invest in its human development to the extent that it activated them to be able to lift themselves out of poverty. And so by the last count, China has lifted more than 700m Chinese out of poverty in three decades. In contrast we have over a hundred million of our own citizens in poverty, despite the huge natural resources and endowment that we have as a country. So there is enough empirical data to validate why we should be appreciative of any intervention into education by any group.”
She added that since the reason of existence for any country is to make constant improvement in the lives of its citizens, government at all levels must through education transit their citizens from being mere population to becoming human capital.
The country Chief Executive Officer, Lafarge Africa, Mr. Michel Puchercos, disclosed that the literacy competition is in line with the firm’s sustainability strategy as integrated in its “2030 Plan,” saying that the exercise will positively impact on literacy level of pupils across Africa, as being literacy equips individuals with skills needed for societal wellbeing.
Chairman of the company, Mr. Mobolaji Balogun, said going by our population and the 2050 projection, there is an urgent need to lift the literacy level of Nigerians.
Executive Director, Ovie Brume Foundation, the implementation partner, Adeola Awogbemi, pointed out that literacy is critical to achieving sustainable development.