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Soyinka, Anwukah task teachers, pupils on language use

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Anthony Anwuka. PHOTO: today.ng


As Lagos wins 5th Lafarge Africa National Literacy Competition
Nobel Laureate and seasoned playwright, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and the Minister of State for Education, Prof Anthony Anwukah have tasked teachers to guide their pupils on the proper use of language.While expressing concern over the literacy level in the country, the duo said teachers must ensure that school children are not corrupted by what they read.

They spoke at the 5th Lafarge Africa National Literacy Competition, where Lagos State defeated five other regions to clinch the first prize.
There were 12 participants, two each representing Lagos, Kano, Rivers, Nassarawa, Gombe and Ebonyi states.Nine-year old Lawal Kehinde and Idowu Ayomikun, 11, emerged winner, while Ebonyi and Gombe emerged first and second runners up respectively.

The first to third place winners got cash prizes of N250, 000, N150, 000 and N100, 000 with other consolation prizes.The overall winners from Lagos State also got scholarships to complete their secondary school education.Soyinka in his keynote address at the event held at the civic centre, Lagos and titled, “Bridging the literacy gap together”, said efforts should be intensified to improve literacy level in the country.

The scholar was particularly impressed that some states in the country, known for their high illiteracy level, reached the final stage of the competition.He said,” I am delighted to see representatives of the northern states; these states are at the forefront of the literacy struggle because they confront one of the most determined excusable enemies of reading, literacy, and enlightenment that we have ever experienced in this nation, the battle that is still ongoing”.

When I see representatives, especially young representatives of those states in any kind of event that has to do with literature, literacy and education generally, I say to myself, the battle is not lost but will be won.”

“We have an additional responsibility here, those of us who are comparatively protected, we need to redouble our efforts in making sure that literacy should not just be the ability to put one word together and another to make sense, or to put two together to communicate. Language is a preoccupation, a commitment and a discipline. I want to appeal to teachers here to redouble their efforts to see that the school pupils are not corrupted by what they read. By that I’m talking about language itself, not just as a tool of communication but also as a repository of the more of the philosophy of the entire gamut of culture of any people.

On his part, Anwukah said the Federal Government is making efforts to improve literacy level in the country.The minister said through initiatives such as the development of school facilities across the country and the National Home Grown School Feeding Programmes, government has been able to increase school enrollment and completion level.

According to him, the dropout rate of primary school students is about 30 per cent and this is known to be a major root of illiteracy.
Anwukah said the government recognises the need for collaboration with the private sector, and will continue to work with Lafarge to enhance literacy development in the country.The Chairman, Lafarge Africa, Mr Bolaji Balogun said the competition, the fifth in the series is designed in line with the company’s sustainability strategy, which complements the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4.

Balogun noted that already the country has not just infrastructure deficit, but a huge gap in its education and health sectors.“Nigeria’s real wealth is not in its crude oil but in its people. However, the nation’s annual budget is spent on the wrong things, recurrent expenditure and debt servicing, with less than nine per cent allocated to education,” he said.The chairman added that public-private sector collaboration is required to bridge the literacy gap.

Director of Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainable Development at LANLC, Mrs Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, said the competition was to create more literacy enhancement opportunities for indigent students across Nigeria.“We have been doing this successfully for the past five years and we are quite happy with the positive impact we have made so far.

“LANLC is part of our overall sustainable development strategy, the Lafarge Holcim 2030 Plan, which has four action-pillars — climate, circular economy, water & nature and people & communities — each with specific actions and targets to ensure we achieve our ambitions,” she said. According to her, since the inception of the competition, more than 500,000 pupils in 886 public schools across 544 local government areas (LGAs) have been impacted.

“For example, my idea of an education bank is where for example the private university go to take loan at a reduced percentage, If you want to go to law or medical school and you cannot afford it, you can go there and take a loan, it is done in other countries of the world. Government can provide avenue to fund education without necessarily increasing fees, the former vice chancellor stated.

On his part, Prof Utomi said education bank would do no harm to the sector, as that is what is obtainable in developed climes.According to him, “There is nothing with education banking. In many countries, most students pursue higher education on students loan after which they pay back. So if government is mooting the idea, it is a good one for the education sector.”Aliyu pointed out that establishing it would lead to an improvement in the standard of education and give more impetus to educational infrastructure.
 
But the Director of Press, Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja, Willie Bassey, who wondered why ASUU will criticise the proposal said, “The proposal came out as a communiqué from the National Council on Education’s conference. It has not taken off, they are still working out modalities on how it will function, why will anybody criticise what is yet to take off? He queried.

For over a decade, calls for the establishment of Nigerian Education Bank has been on, but not much has happened in this direction despite groups and influential individuals lending their voices to the call.
 
The 1993 Nigerian Education Bank Act mandates establishment of Nigerian Education Bank to approve and disburse loans for educational purposes and for matters connected therewith.Though the bank has long been given legal backing by the Supreme Court, but the legal pronouncement was never implemented.
 
The education bank as proposed would among others meet the financial needs of less privileged teachers and students and enable average Nigerians achieve their educational goals. It will also go a long way in alleviating the suffering of poor Nigerians who cannot afford the services of the conventional banking system.
 
In June 2014, civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), accused the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan of “letting down millions of poor Nigerians by failing to implement court judgments on the right to education, the latest of which ordered the president to establish the Nigerian Education Bank that would enhance access of millions of disadvantaged children to education.”
 


SERAP, in a statement, signed by the group’s executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, in the wake of a Federal High Court judgment, said “Nigeria has the resources and capacity to establish the bank if the government is able to exercise the required political will. If President Jonathan seriously wants to end the phenomenon of Boko Haram, he should move swiftly to establish the Nigerian Education Bank.”
 
“The judgment just delivered by the Hon. Justice M.B. Idris, of the Federal High Court, Lagos ordering President Goodluck Jonathan to establish a Nigerian Education Bank is an important development in the efforts to achieve access to quality education for all Nigerian children. But we fear that the government will ignore this judgment just as it did regarding the ECOWAS Court right to education judgment.”
In the suit number FHC/L/CS/1122/11 dated 22 November 2011, and filed by the Falana and Falana Chambers, Justice Idris, held that, “The duty to establish the bank is mandatory and President Goodluck Jonathan cannot elect not to establish it.”
 
The judge had added that, “The failure by the president to do this is nothing but an act of arbitrariness,” stressing that, “It is apostasy for the government to ignore the provision of the law. Everyone, high or low must be prepared to justify his act by reference to some law, which authorises him to act precisely in the way in which he has acted.”Despite this judgement, the then administration of President Goodluck was unable to establish the education bank.
 


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