Nearly three years after making 4.6 million adults and youths literate within six years in the country, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is seeking to go a step further; but has met a brickwall from bureaucrats and politicians who have not kept to their words.
The next phase of the project is hinged on Digital Literacy based on an innovative approach known as SCHOOL MEET THE LEARNER (SML) targeted at the post literacy needs of 1,314,000 learners drawn from 220 local government areas (LGAs).
It will also seek to empower 40,000 learners with diverse skills by providing them with ICT driven vocational skills training using apprenticeship system; open 50,000 post literacy classes and 1,600 apprenticeship centres; and build the capacity of 5,000 facilitators (facilitators + artisans) and pay their stipend.
To move forward, it was noted that there was need to extend advocacy to all parties for increased support and political will on the part of government at all levels.
However, with the advocacy done in the last two and half years, all the international and local technocrats get aplenty are promises and ‘motions without movement’ in an administration they believe should have had runaway success.
Among others, the technocrats pleaded for regular payment of facilitators for increased enrollment, retention and completion rate; and build on the gains of phase one of the project by aligning its phase two to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 4 and 8.
It is not exactly known what is stalling the project, but funding for the second phase to build on the first phase and address SDG 4 target4.4 (relevant skills for decent work), 4.5 (gender equality and inclusion), 4.6 (universal youth literacy) is put at N3,545,940,007 or USD11,239,112.54).
Details of the success of the Revitalizing Adult and Youth Literacy (RAYL) Phase One in Nigeria made exclusively available to Nigeria Everyday shows that the country is the only E-9 country in the whole of Sub Saharan Africa with a worrisome high level of illiteracy in the country (23 million males and 58 million females are illiterate), with over 10 million youths that were out of school.
To address the developmental challenges posed by the dismal figures, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Office of the Special Assistant to the President on the Millennium Development Goals (OSSAP-MDGs) made available $6.4m for the “Revitalizing Adult and Youth Literacy (RAYL)” project in Nigeria.
“The purpose was to reduce illiteracy level in Nigeria and build a critical mass of educators for literacy and skills acquisition, while the main objectives were to strengthen the national capacity for designing, delivering, monitoring and evaluating quality literacy programmes”.
The final report and the project evaluation were presented late last year to the Ministers and bureaucrats by UNESCO.
“The project addressed strategic areas such as policy review and analysis, advocacy and communication, the persistent gaps in capacity, innovations, good practices, and effective partnerships in support of literacy.
“The ultimate and immediate beneficiaries of the project were;
▪ Those who have not been reached by literacy;
▪ The marginalized or excluded from the formal education system, mainly young girls and women, youth and out-of-school children;
▪ Policy makers, adult literacy planners, programme managers, curriculum developers, facilitators and those responsible for quality assurance at federal and state levels.
▪ Those whose skills and capabilities needed to be enhanced through a wide range of capacity development interventions in the areas of policy formulation, programme design, management and delivery, quality assurance, resource mobilization and partnerships building.
Among the recorded achievements of the project are:
▪Established and equipped Community Learning Centres (CLC) in 7 States plus 15 mini MCLC in 15 States;
▪ Built the capacities of 4,807 facilitators from 146 Local Government Areas
▪ Developed, printed and distributed 5,000 facilitators’ manual
▪ Reviewed obsolete literacy by radio primer and facilitators guide, NFE monitoring handbook, printed and distributed 2,000 copies each
▪ Developed, printed and distributed 2,000 centre based management hand book for NFE practitioner;
▪ Established partnerships with private sectors, NGOs, CSOs notable among which were Procter and Gamble, Samsung, Hikmah Foundation, MCCEF, Family Succour, MALPAI, Better Life for the African Woman among others.
▪ Mobilized 452 communities in support for literacy
▪ Opened 584 literacy centres in 146 local government areas;
▪ Enrolled 5,127,621 learners, out of which 4,600,770 were made Literate.
Among the project’s recorded challenges were:
▪ Absence of good learning environment;
▪ Poor condition of service for Non-Formal Educators ( facilitators);
▪ The Boko Haram insurgency in the North and North East;
▪ Inadequate learning materials;
▪ The project asked for budget revision four times whose approval took longer time than anticipated;
According to the document, the lessons learnt were:
▪ That strong evidence based advocacy at State and LGA levels improves support for adult literacy
▪ That the establishment of Model Community Learning Centres is in line with SDG 4.4 and facilitates literacy and skill acquisition;
▪ That capacity building of Centre-based Management Committees and involvement of communities were monitoring, ownership and sustainability factors.
▪ That Model Community Learning centres invigorated learning by promoting regular attendance of learners;
▪ Joint preparation of the strategic framework, work plans and joint monitoring missions by all stakeholders were cost effective measures and provided value for money;
▪ RAYL Project Framework has become officially recognized as a strategic initiative with strong potential for scaling up L&NFE delivery at community levels in the Federation and Africa as a whole;
▪ RAYL helped SAME open their scope of action to NGOs whose activities they were not supervising, thus missing a good part of centres and learners in their reports;
▪ Capacity building activities helped improve quality of literacy and NFE delivery;
▪ That facilitators are key elements in the success of any literacy programme and so should be adequately catered for and motivated; and that
▪ RAYL revealed that Lliteracy and Non Formal Education (L&NFE) delivery were contingent on the extent of commitment by Local Government/States and the sustenance of the gains of RAYL in a further phase of intervention as a L&NFE strategic initiative for the achievement of the SDGs is imperative.
To execute the first phase of the project, the Federal Ministry of Education contributed N1 billion as Fund – in – Trust with UNESCO for RAYL which covered 146 LGAs as against N10.2 billion that was required;
▪ UNESCO mobilized additional US$1.6 million from Procter & Gamble (P&G) to intervene in Girls and women education to complement RAYL, in three states Bauchi, FCT and Rivers.
▪ Samsung donated 1,300 laptops which is equivalent to $1.3 million
It was gathered that the RAYL Phase II is a response to the desire indicated by the Minister at a dinner during the last visit of the UNESCO DG, to extend the RAYL project to benefit more people in Nigeria.
Also, the end of project external evaluation recommended a second phase to benefit more people.
Based on these, it was learnt UNESCO, after extensive discussions, developed a proposal for a Phase II of the RAYL project.
At the presentation of the RAYL External Evaluation Report, RAYL Final Report and the Proposal for RAYL Second Phase to the former Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwuka, he stressed that what Nigeria needed now is the production of middle level manpower who will be more self-reliant and not depending on white collar job.
This, he said, will determine Nigeria’s way forward from now on. He called for complete, real and total autonomy of the university system to make them self-accounting, by generating their own funds, recruit and pay their own staff, with occasional grants from government.
He declared his total support for the RAYL Phase II, especially because of its focus on skill acquisition/ vocational training, which will empower the people with skills for income generation, self-reliance and be able to contribute to wealth creation, poverty reduction and national economic growth.
He, however, queried the title of the project, ‘Revitalizing Adult and youth literacy in Nigeria”. According to him, it appears to have a competitive posture with the regular formal school system. He therefore, suggested, Revitalizing Adult and Youths literacy (OUT-OF-SCHOOL) which will make the meaning very clear and focused, pointing out that Youth Education is domiciled in the formal school, while non-formal education, which the project tends to address is out of school.
He said the emphasis should be on skill acquisition. which the country needs for middle level manpower development, adding that it is the kind of education that is responsive to the needs of this nation at this point in time.
In his reaction, the Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Education raised a number of issues, which included:
▪ The issue of statistics, pointing the disparities in illiteracy figures of 81% and the 10.5 million out of schoolchildren. He asked whether the 10.5 million are part of the 81 million illiterates or are they going to be added to the 81 million illiterate population, which he said may be over half of the population of the country. He noted that the issue of 10.5 million out of schoolchildren has been going on for quite some time and regretted poor and conflicting data management and reporting system in the country. He questioned the reality of these illiteracy figures and called for the need to have reliable figures in the country.
▪ He also raised the issue of methodology. He pointed out that most programmes focus on building of institutions, capacity building and so on, and mentioned the issue of establishing of model learning centres. He asked why the project will not make use of existing structures in the primary and secondary schools and the teachers both primary and secondary school as facilitators, instead of training new ones.
▪ He also wanted to know the goal of the project. He was of the view that since we have high rate of illiteracy in the country, attention should be paid to this segment of the unreached people. He queried the justification for focusing on post literacy when there are a lot more people who have not acquired basic literacy.
▪ On establishment of more vocational centres in the country, he noted that there are many vocational centres in the country, especially those established by politicians in their various wards throughout the country. His concern was that there are adequate vocational centres already existing in the country and about 95% of them are under-utilized. He said the problem is on how to effectively equip them and not necessarily establishing new ones.
The Permanent Secretary cautioned against duplication of programmes, especially in the use of ICT and vocational education, noting that the ministry of education is already coming up with a robust partnership with ministries of labour and productivity and Science and Technology in the areas of ICT and vocational education and that pilots have been carried out.