Celebrating international literacy day in Nigeria
The attempt to celebrate Literacy Day on a global level was first discussed on November 17, 1965 during the Conference of World Ministers of Education held in Tehran, capital of Iran. The Conference made up of Education stakeholders from different parts of mother earth focused on eradicating ignorance and poverty so that people across the globe will have greater access to livelihood.
In 1966, the International Literacy Day was declared by the proclamation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO), during the 14th ordinary session of the world body general assembly. The purpose was to raise awareness on the importance of literacy and to highlight the progress that has been made in global literacy efforts as well as the challenges that still remain.
It was however, not until September 8, 1967 that International Literacy Day was officially celebrated. Since then, it has become a global event, celebrated every year on this day to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights, and to advance the literacy agenda towards a more virile, literate and sustainable society.
International Literacy Day is a UNESCO day of observance that highlights the importance of literacy for all people, communities and societies. The 2023 event will be celebrated globally under the theme ‘Promoting literacy for a World in Transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies.’ The theme underscore the importance of literacy as a catalyst for social and sustainable economic progress. In today’s world and in the estimation of UNESCO, over 775 million adults lack basic literacy skills. One out of every five adults is illiterate and two-third of them are women. It can be clearly deduced that the scourge of illiteracy spares no one, nation or culture on earth.
The population of Nigeria is estimated to be around 200 million or slightly more. Data from the Federal Ministry of Education show that as at September 2021, 38 percent of the estimated 200 million or more population representing over 76 million adults, are non-literates. Since then and till now, the government joined by other institutions and agencies have been working conscientiously toward a literate society and no doubt recorded tremendous successes in its efforts to upgrade and improve the literacy level across the land.
Nigeria as a country over has adopted a wide variety of literacy strategies ranging from compulsory mass campaign, basic education, work oriented functional literacy, problem oriented functional literacy, and community based literacy teaching to voluntary mass campaign in her quest to promote and raise awareness about literacy among the people.
Notwithstanding the attainment of independence over six score decades ago, the country still face challenges providing quality education to her citizens, especially those in rural and marginalized areas. Celebrating International literacy day in Nigeria is therefore, not only an opportunity to promote literacy and non-formal education, but also because of the crucial role literacy play in national development. The celebration holds significant importance in the country as it does globally. It serves as a reminder of the role of literacy education in Nigeria’s development and progress. The celebration highlights the importance of education and encourages the federal and state governments, NGOs and communities to work together to ensure access to education for all, regardless of age or background.
Literacy is a fundamental tool for empowerment and social economic development. It equips individual with the skills needed to access and decode information, engage in economic activities, and participate in civic life. Improving literacy rates in Nigeria therefore contribute to poverty reduction and overall development. Nigeria is a nation of diverse culture where literacy education plays great role in preserving her cultural heritage and indigenous knowledge. Celebrating international literacy day will ensure that the rich oral traditional and cultural practices of the land are not lost over time.
Literacy is closely linked to several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), among them include quality to education, gender equality, and poverty eradiation. A literate Nigerian population will foster unity and peaceful coexistence among the people. In the same context, a literate population is key to a sustainable socio-economic growth and development of any country. International Literacy Day celebration no doubt will showcase how government has achieved these goals. Celebrating the day therefore will draw attention to the fact that there are still people in the country who struggle to get functional education. This is in addition to raising public awareness about the importance of various literacy programs and initiatives that are available.
Ejiofor is a Deputy Registrar with Yaba College of Technology, Lagos.
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