International Literacy Day (ILD 2021) is being celebrated globally today. Every year on September 8th, the focus is on raising awareness among citizens of all nations about education. In 1966, UNESCO decided to mark this day to highlight the value of literacy to the individual, in the community, and socially. This awareness of education is to help people across the globe improve their livelihood tomorrow.
ILD was proclaimed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1966 to draw global attention to the status of literacy and lifelong learning, as well as to highlight the linkage between literacy and the development of individuals and nations.
The theme for ILD 2021 is “Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide” in line with the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a devastating impact across the globe and affects over 750 million non-literate young people and adults. It will delve into the role of literacy as a pivot for a human-centred recovery from the pandemic and how technology helps make learning inclusive, leaving no one behind.
Regarding the situation in Nigeria, the federal government has expressed its desire to improve budgetary provisions to address adult illiteracy and out-of-school children. The Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, said: “non-literate parents are more likely to have out of school children.”
In the light of the theme for ILD 2021, would Nigeria not again be paying lip service to education at all levels? Technology rescued the world by providing avenues for learning in spite of the COVID-19 crisis, and one would have expected Nigeria to accelerate the progress already made.
Eradicating or reducing the scourge of literacy cannot be achieved without technology. The non-literate parents whom the government plans to invest in educating have access to phones and the internet, which even offers multilingual services. Planning to achieve that “ripple effect on the reduction of out-of-school children” without embracing technology may be farfetched.
Year in and year out, budgetary allocation for education has revealed that it is one of the most neglected aspects of our socio-economic life. However, the Minister of Education acknowledges that “It is a fact that non-literate parents are more likely to breed out of school children, thereby compounding the phenomenon facing our nation today.” The government is determined to confront the adult literacy program with the same zeal we are handling out-of-school children. We look forward to improving budgetary provisions in this regard in the coming years.”
Out-of-school children are the ones who teach parents how to use technology. Technology is gradually being acknowledged as a major learning tool for aiding young children in developing their cognitive, social and learning skills. With the daily exposure of young children to the latest technology such as smartphones, tablets, and e-readers, who is in a better position to work with teachers and parents to ensure adult literacy and other out-of-school challenges are confronted?
To help attend to their educational needs, focus must be on organizing training sessions that are all inclusive. The government should partner with educational technology companies via public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the delivery of educational services to the public. A situation where one section of the country is home to as many as 10 million out-of-school kids and leaves them to roam the streets as hawkers and kid labourers in the 21st century is unacceptable.
While we mark this year’s International Literacy Day, I think the remarks by UNESCO’s representative, Mammadou Lamine Sow, who stated that to promote education there must be diverse solutions for distance, face-to-face, and hybrid learning for literacy; support equitable and inclusive access to technology-enabled literacy programs; integrate learning of reading and writing skills and digital skills; and adopt an appropriate type of technology to support the good teaching approach, learning content, assessment, and certification should guide our thoughts and policy direction.
This will help accelerate our march towards the achievement of SDG 4: quality education.