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Nigeria / Education - 2001-08-23

Nigeria has yet to fully implement the Education for All Program Forum, or EFA, launched by the United Nations ten years ago. The program was aimed at ensuring that by the year 2000, every Nigerian would have access to basic education. Partners in the country's educational system met recently to review the implementation of the program and develop plans to move forward.

The problem came under discussion at a sub-regional meeting held in Dakar, Senegal. That has prompted partners in the country's educational system to act, according to them, immediately. As a follow-up, they recently held a meeting in the capital, Abuja.

Educationist Nkechi Ikediugwu is the Chairman of the Anambra State Education Commission. She attended both the Dakar and Abuja meetings. "The EFA Forum is an effort by the international bodies, in conjunction with some presidents, to ensure that everybody by the year 2000 must have access to education. It was launched in 1990 and 10 years later, it was reviewed at Dakar. It was discovered that Nigeria had only achieved 50 percent literacy level."

A U-N report on illiteracy in Nigeria shows that 61 percent of women and 39 percent of males - are illiterate - figures that have alarmed educationists. Ms. Ikediugwu says there are many reasons why Nigeria has not yet met its obligations as required by the Education for All program. "First is poverty, we have a high rate of poverty in Nigeria. Ignorance is another problem. The majority of Nigerians are ignorant of innovations and things that are good for them. Another point is instability in government and lack of qualified personnel at the appropriate areas."

In 1999 the government introduced the Universal Basic Education program - UBE. Most Nigerians hoped it would help the country meet the aims and objectives of the EFA program. The Universal Basic Education program also makes it mandatory for all children in Nigeria to have free access to basic primary education. But so far, it's been slow in moving toward its goals. UBE officials have blamed the set-back largely on the lack of teachers and inadequate facilities in most Nigerian public schools - including classrooms, teaching materials and furniture.

Ms. Ikediugwu says efforts are underway to ensure the success of the EFA program. "As the Chairman of the State Education Commission, we are doing a lot to ensure that EFA succeeds in Nigeria. Mass mobilization and the use of community based organization like, PTAS, town unions, telling them the importance of getting involved in the education of our children, and so far, so good." Ms. Ikediugwu says parents, NGOs, and religious groups should help the government in its efforts to make sure EFA succeeds in Nigeria.