The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) declared that a learning crisis was significantly impeding the development of Nigeria.
This assertion was made by Mrs Yetunde Oluwatosin, a UNICEF education specialist, during a media workshop focused on foundational literacy and numeracy in Benin, Edo State on Wednesday, according to the News Agency of Nigeria.
The workshop, titled “Turning the Tide on Nigeria’s Learning Crisis: A South-West Media Dialogue on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy,” was jointly organized by UNICEF in collaboration with the Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), the Edo Ministry of Education, and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) Lagos State Directorate.
Oluwatosin revealed that 73 per cent of 10-year-old children in the country were struggling to read or comprehend simple text, and an alarming nine out of every ten children in Sub-Saharan were grappling with learning poverty.
She highlighted that, amidst this scenario, only 63 per cent of five-year-olds categorized as the poorest, living in rural areas and in the northern regions, participated in organized learning.
This has led to delayed entry into primary school and poor learning outcomes, Oluwatosin revealed.
The UNICEF education specialist underscored that three out of every four children in Nigeria could not read with comprehension or solve basic mathematical problems.
Additionally, she pointed out that while 73 per cent of Nigerian youths were literate, only seven per cent possessed the necessary ICT skills required for the digital economy.
Causes of Nigeria’s learning crisis and UNICEF’s efforts in addressing learning poverty in Nigeria
According to Oluwatosin, the reasons for Nigeria’s learning crisis are attributed to limited infrastructure, a shortage of qualified teachers, and insufficient learning data, particularly regarding proficiency levels.
She highlighted UNICEF’s efforts in enhancing the quality of teaching materials and providing over 1.8 million children with learning materials between 2018 and 2022.
UNICEF’s goal is to reach an additional 4.8 million children by 2027, with a particular focus on the northern regions.
She stressed the importance of foundational learning skills in halting the learning crisis and improving learning outcomes in primary schools across the country.
Ms. Blessing Ejiofor, UNICEF Communication Officer, appealed to the media to leverage their influence to shape policies and decisions aimed at enhancing learning outcomes for Nigerian children.
She expressed her anticipation for media reports that would promote understanding and encourage positive actions from decision-makers, both in terms of financial and non-financial resources, to combat learning poverty.
Edo State efforts in addressing learning poverty in the state
Dr Joan Oviawe, Edo State Commissioner for Education, praised UNICEF for its efforts to reduce learning poverty in the state.
She highlighted the state’s initiatives, such as mass literacy programs, particularly targeting out-of-school populations and the introduction of technology into the education agenda through the distribution of learning tablets to students and teachers.
In her words,
- “We acknowledge all that UNICEF has been doing. On our part, we engage artisans under the mass literacy initiative and learning by correspondence, to teach them how to read and write.
- “We also introduced technology into our learning agenda and also distributed learning tablets for students and teachers to encourage them and ensure that the learning activities are well structured and centralised.
- “The special students are also captured in this initiative and the idea is to ensure total inclusiveness in our education agenda,” She added.