Nigeria and UNESCO launch $6 million national literacy programme

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Efforts to achieve Education for All in Nigeria received a major boost today with the signing of an $6 million agreement between UNESCO and the Nigerian Government. Under the agreement, Nigeria will finance a project managed by UNESCO to revitalize adult and youth literacy in the country. It was signed today at UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and Nigeria’s Federal Minister of Education Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i.

Although Nigeria has made considerable progress towards Education for All, illiteracy remains a major problem, with an estimated 50 million adults who cannot read or write. Furthermore, some 8.6 million Nigerian primary-age children are out-of-school.

“The importance and enormous benefits of literacy both for individual empowerment and national development are well known and documented,” said Irina Bokova, following the signing ceremony. “As the UN’s specialized agency for education, UNESCO has at its disposal a huge reservoir of expertise and experience. Every effort will be made to mobilize and effectively deploy these resources for the benefit of Nigeria.”

“This is a project charged with great expectations and it is in the spirit of achieving these expectations, together, that we envisioned our cooperation (Nigeria and UNESCO) for the achievement of the important goal of this major endeavor,” said Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i, who currently chairs the E-9 initiative*. “It is our hope that Nigeria’s successful implementation of this programme will serve as a model, not only for the E-9 countries, but also those in the Africa region and elsewhere, facing the literacy challenge. We count on UNESCO to continue to provide appropriate and adequate support for its success.”

The agreement will open the way for a vast programme to strengthen national capacities for designing, delivering, evaluating and monitoring quality literacy programmes. It will be implemented by UNESCO’s office in the Nigerian federal capital, Abuja over 42 months, in close cooperation with the relevant Nigerian authorities.

This if the fourth “self-benefitting” agreement signed between Nigeria and UNESCO since 2004, when the Government in Abuja committed almost $1million for a programme to reform the Nigerian Science, Technology and Innovation System. In 2005, Nigeria provided over $3 million for a UNESCO programme to boost science and technology education in primary and secondary schools and colleges of education. In 2008, the government in Abuja committed $565,000 to support technical and vocational education in Nigeria (this programme was complemented by an additional $1.5 million implemented directly by Government services. These three programmes are all ongoing.

The E-9 Initiative is a forum for nine high-population countries (Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan) to discuss their experiences in education, exchange best practices and monitor progress on achieving Education for All (EFA). Since its launch in 1993, the E-9 network has also become a powerful lobby for EFA and South-South cooperation.

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