Education For All (EFA) is a global initiative introduced in 1990 by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural organization, (UNESCO) with the aim of meeting the learning needs for all children, youth and adults globally by 2015. To realize this noble objective, a broad coalition of national governments, civil society groups, and development agencies such as UNESCO and the World Bank Group were committed to achieving success in the six specific education goals. The goals are, to expand and improve comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, those in difficult circumstances, and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete, free, and compulsory primary education of good quality. Also, ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills development programmes. To achieve a 50 per cent improvement in adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults. To eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2015, and achieve gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality.
Improving on all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring the excellence of all, and recognise and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills. The EFA goals also contribute to the global pursuit of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially MDG 2 on Universal primary education and MDG 3 on gender equality in education, by 2015. In 2000, 189 countries including Nigeria and their partners adopted the two EFA goals which align with Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) II and III that refer to universal primary education and gender parity.
Despite the financial support Nigeria get from international partners like the World Bank to help Nigeria achieve this goal and the country’s strong economy, it is saddening that we are in 2015 which is the EFA deadline, Nigeria is far from reaching the Education for All goal established at the World Conference on Education for All in 1990. Education is a right and everyone has the right to it as it is not only a right but a passport to human capital development that opens doors and expands opportunities and freedoms. It also contributes to fostering peace, democracy and economic growth, improve health and reduce poverty.
The growing population of illiterate adults in Nigeria is put at 46 million, a figure that puts Nigeria in the category of 10 countries of the world with more than 10 million illiterate adults whose ages range from 15 years and above. The former Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, also confirmed this figure and said Nigeria’s adult illiterates have increased from 25 million in 1997 to 35 million in 2013, while 10.5 million children are out of school which, according to him, was embarrassing to the nation. According to him, the embarrassing literacy statistics on Nigeria, justifies the need for all stakeholders to redouble their efforts.
“The current Education for All, (EFA), Global Monitoring report ranks Nigeria as one of the countries with the highest level of illiteracy. The report on Nigeria stated that the number of illiterate adults has increased by 10 million over the past two decades, to reach 35 million.
This is even as the non-formal education sectors in the last four years, has began the implementation of programmes for revitalizing adult and youth literacy. Secondly, the current UNESCO official statistics of the monitored report on global progress of countries towards the six EFA goals revealed that there was no significant improvement in elementary education in Nigeria and that 10.5m children in the country are still not in school. The number is said to be the highest globally. Girl child are out schools.
This data has further exposed the rot in our education system and that Nigeria is still far from achieving the EFA goal 1.While releasing the report, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, said ‘’combined with UNESCO’s recent news that assist to education has fallen yet again, the lack of progress in reducing out of school numbers confirms our fears. There is no hope that Nigeria will reach the goal of universal primary education in 2015”. “We cannot meet this news with further sluggishness.
On the contrary, we must sound the alarm and mobilize the political will to ensure that every child’s right to education is respected,” she said. The World Bank had also expressed worries over the rate of illiterate adults in the country. At the formal inauguration of the State Education Investment Project in Abuja few years back, the Acting Country representative of the World Bank, Sateh El-Arnaoyi, said Nigeria could only ensure a sustainable growth with massive investment in education.
Stakeholders are of the believe that much cannot be achieved by the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education, (MNEC) as fund had always been the major impediment facing the Commission saddled with the responsibility of educating 46 million Nigeria’s adult illiterates. According to UNESCO’s Director- General, Irina Bokova, EFA goals and MDGs are complementary and when you fund education, you are securing progress towards all the Millennium Development Goals’.
It would be recalled that in 2010 the Mass Literacy Agency got the support of the MDGs and about N1b was released in trust to UNESCO to revitalize adult and youth literacy in Nigeria after an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), was signed in Paris between the then Minister of Education, Ruqayyatu Rufa’I and UNESCO in 2011, after wards UNESCO started in earnest. Although, the total amount needed for the programme was put at N12billion. To get the remaining N11billion for the programme, the agency in 2011 embarked on advocacy visits to solicit for the funds.
According to the Executive Secretary of NMEC, Jibrin Paiko, the agency had started the practical implementation of the programme and had also discussed with 6 universities, one from each of the 6 geo- political zone. He said the Universities were anchored to develop a master training package at the Commission level and a facilitators’ hand book to conduct training in all geopolitical zones by these universities was developed and 11 Masters Trainers were selected for each state including NGOs.
The plan is to do a state level training where about 111 state facilitators were trained from the funds and more trained to make the total number of facilitators to 4,104, he said. It is from the programme the agency reviewed the various curriculum materials that are available which includes primary , the girl child, out of school and integrated Qur’an school curriculum.
One of the ways the issue of increase in the rise of illiterate adults in Nigeria can be addressed is through radio programme anchored by state Commissioners for education which has been on in the last 10 years, but Nigeria failed to utilize it. The programme should be intensified in the country.
Another challenge facing the Commission is adult and youth vitalization programme in Nigeria, states don’t have facilitators and some state governments who do, do not pay for the training which by law they should pay, not the agency and the minimum is monthly stipend of N7, 500 per facilitator. To get close to achieving EFA, state and local governments must redouble efforts at eradicating illiteracy in the country, we have just less than four months to end 2015,the deadline .
To make meaningful impact within the shortest time left, the eradication of illiteracy in the country should not be left in the hands of development partners and NGOs. The federal, state and local governments also need to allocate more budget for the agency to enable it address the nation’s increasing illiteracy rate, which run into next year.
Although the bulk of the task of eradicating illiteracy in most of the E-9 countries like India, China, Brazil and Indonesia among others is borne by non-governmental organizations, but Nigerian government should know that government of those countries were also serious about eradicating illiteracy in their countries which encouraged them to support the government.
It is a well- known fact that literacy is one of the key solutions to some of the nation’s challenges such as insecurity, poverty, poor health condition, among others. All of these require commitment and funding. Basic literacy has the potential of liberating individuals and families from poverty, ignorance and diseases. The only way we can solve this problem is to take formal and informal education as an emergency, which is very necessary and anything short of that, will not be able to achieve any meaningful result. Nigeria is among countries that are way off target on the six key educational goals that 164 countries agreed to try to achieve between 2000 and 2015.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation gave this damning report recently. The report launched in Paris, New York, New Delhi and Santiago de Chile, indicated that Nigeria has the highest number of children out of school and one of the world’s worst education systems due to a combination of corruption, conflict and lack of investment.
In the first decade after the goals were set, foreign aid for education to Nigeria rose to $13.9 billion in 2010, but it stagnated because of the global financial crisis and fell back to $12.6 billion over the last two years, U.N. officials said. The officials did not say what level of support for education had been agreed in 2000. An extra $22 billion a year – equivalent to 4.5 days of global military spending – is needed to pay for new schools, more teachers and text books to ensure countries reach new education targets now being set for 2030, the report said. Despite the nation’s education system are still far from becoming accessible especially to the poor.
-2015 is the deadline set by the UNESCO for over 164 countries of the world to ensure affordable education for all. Titus Eleweke in this report takes a critical look on how Nigeria has beenb ale to meet the 2015 deadline