EVER since Anambra State first participated in the annual United Nations’ International Literacy Day in 1994, successive administrations did not go beyond thumbing the Agency for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education in the fight against illiteracy.
Even if it may smack of immodesty to accuse the predecessors current Anambra government of paying lip service to this critical dynamics of modern economy, past regimes have not been more than lukewarm in discharging this social responsibility.
THEREFORE, while Lagos, Ogun, Imo and Rivers States were putting the 2004 National Policy on Adult and Non-Formal Education (NPANFE) to maximum benefit, Anambra got clasped between prevarication and smothered vision in grappling with this potent tool by which human capacity can be developed for attainment of sustainable livelihoods by out-of-the-box strategies.
PERHAPS, this explains why markets and other public spaces were replete with apprentice traders and their masters, not to talk of market women and girls, who could not read or write in any communication medium – a trend that marks up illiteracy rate in Anambra State to about 52 percent until 2014.
BUT with the silent revolution that repositioned the entire Anambra education sector, to be winning both national and international accolades for the state, since the Gov. Willie Obiano-led administration came on board, corollary zest has rebooted previous window dressing that ipso facto touched off massive turnaround on the anti-illiteracy campaign machinery’s work.
LITTLE wonder, illiteracy rate has since retarded to less than 21 per cent to engineer the present push for as low as 5 percent in the next few years.
GOV. Obiano did not set shop on rocket science to recalibrate this overlooked informal sector. But in a matter of finger snap, the governor tapped from his administrative nous to assemble a team of basic education experts led by Prof. Kate Omenugha. This team wore their thinking cap and hit the road running, so that it took no time to bring adult and non-formal learning into catchment spheres of the ‘magic’ happening elsewhere in the state education sector.
THE agency made consistent inroads into target groups, spreading its tentacles far and wide through people-oriented informal learning nuggets at both state and local government levels. Today, there are over 300 adult and vocational education outlets in Anambra, each fitted with 100 desk chairs and 286 rechargeable lanterns to ensure ‘pupils’ learn with minimal discomfort or hindrance. These learning centres are provided with electronic signposts for easy identification – even at nights.
REHABILITATION of stark illiterates and school dropouts – both young and old –wherever they were found, from Eke Awka Market in Awka South L.G.A to Nkpor New Parts Market in Idemmili North L.G.A down to Onitsha Main Market in Onitsha North L.G.A. across Ogbaru Main Market in Ogbaru L.G.A and similar places at the six education zones of Anambra State, was given an emergency priority by bringing schools without walls to those that need them.
GOV. Obiano also inspired continuous advocacy and mobilisation tour of the entire 179 communities to sensitise people on dangers of illiteracy before pointing nearest adult education centres for them to go for enrollment. The mechanism for monitoring and supervision was equally strengthened to encourage co-operation with relevant education desks at the 21 L.G.As, with necessary instructional and back-up materials evenly distributed to these centres round-the-clock even as payment of monthly allowances of facilitators receive equal attention as that of their counterparts in conventional schools.
BENEFICIARIES of the scheme were also given front row seats for special recognition at International Literacy Day ceremonies, which are hosted by the government, to send the message to others yet to be captured in Anambra literacy umbrella in their own (horses’) mouths.
LITTLE wonder, Anambra won 2018 National Prize for State with Best Organised Agency for Mass Literacy in South-East and South-South Nigeria, apart from being rated among best three in UNESCO International Report on Excellently Managed Agency for Mass Literacy in Nigeria.
THIS is why we make bold to say that the new mass literacy system in Anambra State ticks all boxes in international best practice.
BUT to sustain this tempo and achieve desired goals, we call on relevant authorities not to stop just at recruiting best brains but to retain them with increased minimum benchmarks to booth.
EQUALLY, we recommend provision of functional vehicles for monitoring these learning centres through unscheduled visits and periodic internal and external examinations, as well as rehabilitation work at some of the centres where their roofs still leak.