PRESS STATEMENT – MASS LITERACY: THE BEDROCK OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Since the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), at the 14th session of its general conference on 26 October 1966, declared the International Literacy Day, it has remained true to its raison d’etre as the annual muster point for all efforts at reiterating the invaluable benefits of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.
Its yearly observance on September 8 continues to serve as a reminder of the transformative power of literacy in shaping more inclusive and equitable societies worldwide. The efficacy of literacy in lifting people out of poverty, and engendering a more progressive world cannot be overstated.
As an organisation committed to the principles of social justice, equality, and human rights, the National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity joins other well-meaning individuals, organisations, governments, and other stakeholders across the globe in marking this year’s event. We align ourselves with the 2023 theme – Promoting Literacy For a World in Transition: Building the Foundation for Sustainable and Peaceful Societies. This theme underscores the fundamental significance of literacy as an instrument for adapting to a rapidly changing world, bridging divides, and laying the groundwork for a more progressive and sustainable world. It is a resounding message and a noble call towards the attainment of the lofty objectives of Sustainable Development Goal 4 of the United Nations, especially at a time when progress reports on the SDGs look rather bleak across board. The SDG4 on education and lifelong learning still has its objectives to foster equity, inclusion, and equality largely unmet, and almost 800 million youth and adults worldwide remain without the most basic literacy and numeracy skills. More troubling is the fact that women and girls make up 60% of this worrying data.
The situation in Nigeria is emblematic of the global literacy malady. With adult illiteracy rate at 31%, dwindling school enrollment, and the country’s unfortunate reputation as the world’s capital of out-of-school children, this year’s commemoration of Literacy Day offers a veritable opportunity for all stakeholders to urgently reexamine the need to realign efforts at ensuring quality, equitable, and inclusive education for all Nigerians.
The NAS/PC reaffirms its commitment to supporting literacy initiatives and collaborating with stakeholders to advance literacy in Nigeria. We believe that a literate Nigeria is a more equitable, prosperous, and peaceful Nigeria. We therefore call on the federal and state governments to ensure the allocation of increased resources to the education sector, focusing on teacher training, provision of learning materials, and infrastructure development to create an enabling environment for mass literacy to flourish.
After several years of failing to meet up with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,(UNESCO) global benchmark recommendation of 15-20 per cent allocation to the education sector from the national budget, the former administration of President Mohammadu Buhari in its last budget before leaving office allocated N1.18 trillion to the educational sector. While this was an appreciable increase, the N239 billion allocated for capital expenditure compared to the N706.5 billion allocated for personnel costs is staggering. The Federal Government should lead other tiers of government to step up its commitment to the education sector if Nigeria is to win the war against illiteracy.
We also recommend the expansion of literacy programs, particularly in underserved communities and among vulnerable populations, with special attention to adult literacy initiatives to empower all age groups. In this age of digital transformation, we encourage the large-scale adoption and integration of digital literacy into educational curricula to equip learners with essential skills for the future.
On this International Literacy Day, let us unite to build a nation where every citizen can read, write, and contribute meaningfully to our collective progress. Doing otherwise harbours grim consequences for the future.