EFA targets: Beyond the fears and pessimism
Category: Education Written by Aliyu Othman
This piece is a reaction from the Federal Ministry of Education to a publication of Thursday December 6, 2012 on the Education pages of Daily Trust titled ‘Nigeria won’t meet EFA by 2020’ written by Boco Edet.Palpable fears and heightened pessimism have been expressed in several quarters, including the media on the possibility of Nigeria achieving Education For All (EFA) by the year 2015 or even years later. The above development is equally anchored on the belief that Nigeria is among the 26 African countries that are unlikely to achieve the EFA target by 2015 because of government’s inability to translate paper work to action.
The African Network Campaign on Education for All (ANCEFA), Programme Manager, Waruku Boaz, stated at an extraordinary session meeting of AU ministers of education, that over 26 countries are going to miss the 2015 target because they are yet to “translate what they committed on paper to action,” and called on state governments to demonstrate the needed political will, to guarantee the achievement of the target.
Nigeria’s education minister, Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i, equally expressed the same apprehension, when she noted, during a meeting of education ministers and senior officials from E9 countries in Abuja that, “years after, countries in the E9 began committing resources to achieve universal literacy by 2015 and cut levels of illiteracy, they are still short of targets.”
According to the minister, “in spite of accelerated impetus to achieve Education for All goals by 2015, we still lag behind in achieving some of the EFA goals.”
While the EFA prime concern is to reduce illiteracy by 50%, research findings have revealed that at least two out of every three illiterate adult or young person resides in E9 countries. Equally startling is the disclosure that E9 countries account for 535 million illiterate people out of the estimated 800 million considered illiterate globally.
To meet the target on Education for All, each country is expected to ensure the realization of six goals against the 2015 deadline, including expanding early childhood care and education, providing free and compulsory education for all, ensure learning and life skills for young people and adults, increase adult literacy by 50% , achieve gender equality in education and improve quality of education but some unexpected challenges happened that affected the speed and time frame for the realization of these targets among many nations.
To achieve the level of literacy required, Rufa’i said E9 countries need to “reach out further to those living in remote rural areas and very difficult terrains, to women, youth and the marginalized.”
The minister said Nigeria in particular could tackle adult illiteracy through two programmes: Revitalizing Adult and Youth Literacy in Nigeria, and the Abuja Framework for Action and Cooperation.
The literacy programme is being implemented in collaboration with UNESCO through a self-benefiting Funds-in-Trust valued at over N1 billion (about $6,468,233).
“We are now in a better position to address the challenge of illiteracy with a renewed commitment and a sense of urgency and we expect that the programme will yield remarkable outcomes before 2015,” she said.
EFA latest report on the performance rate of sub-Saharan African countries, on achieving the literacy targets, indicated that countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, Comoros, Congo, Ethiopia Gambia Madagascar, Sierra Leone and Togo are far from meeting the target, while those within the reach to meet EFA by 2015 include Botswana, Cape Verde, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Sao-Tome, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia. Seychelles however remained the only country that has achieved Education For All and has therefore met the target.
Most critical stakeholders in the sector while admitting the herculean task of achieving the EFA set target by Nigeria, particularly, are however at variant with the blanket opinion of those who prepared the report, whom they blame for turning blind eye on several milestones set by the present leadership in the sector in driving Nigerian education forward, and for the failure to acknowledge the contiguous political and internal challenges that exist in the respective countries.
Their warning is that it is wrong to compare Nigeria with countries that are not only smaller in population, but with relatively flexible constitutional arrangement and lesser internal challenges. Implementing the Education For All projects in a country as diverse as Nigeria, will certainly not be smooth sailing as the case in countries with unique constitutional arrangements and flexible structures like Seychelles Ghana, Kenya and so on.
Similarly, pooling resources together and achieving the needed synergy amongst the various strata of governance in the so-called successful countries, is definitely not the best case scenario in the Nigeria context.
Education in Nigeria is on the concurrent list and not on the exclusive list in the 1999 Constitution as amended, an indication that in federated Nigeria, the component units need to be committed before any project can register a smooth sail nationwide.
Dr. Ahmed Modibbo, former Executive Secretary UBEC classically pointed out the peculiar challenges facing the implementation of any educational programme in Nigeria, when he lamented the blatant refusal of some state governments in accessing counterpart funds already allotted to them thereby stifling the effort of federal government on grassroots education delivery system.
Effort to improve access to education in Nigeria has no doubt experienced improved attention by the present managers of the sector led by Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i, who has practically demonstrated her passion for enduring legacies in the Nigerian Education project.
The argument therefore remains that optimism rather than pessimism should be the watchword in the march towards realizing the EFA target.
If the states are made to replicate what has been achieved at the centre, such as construction of Almajiri schools, the girl child education project, and the plan for school dropouts and various interventionist educational programmes that liter the landscape, then achieving literacy for all in Nigeria will certainly remain on track if not in 2015 certainly not up to 2020.
All that is required to be done at the moment is for the Federal Government to further increase the planned expenditure on each of the projected 56 million illiterates already identified, and encourage the states to pay the benchmark fund of N7500 for the facilitators and trainers in the literacy centers, then the EFA target is realizable.
Othman is spokesman for the Minister of Education.