By Funmilayo Adeyemi, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

Destiny Adah, a 10-year old primary six pupil cannot read a simple sentence, a development which made her mother, Mrs Esther Adah to seek for help to improve her reading ability. She engaged the services of a private teacher to improve her child’s reading skills.

Esther was billed to write the National Common Entrance Examination in June.

“What a worrisome situation, how can this 10-year old girl prepare for the upcoming examination when she cannot read or solve simple numeracy?

“I cannot help my daughter academically because I was not privileged to go to school, but I want my children to have good and quality education.

“Most of the time, she returns her homework to school if the private teacher is not around to help, as I cannot help her out.

“I have refused to focus attention on her as I usually do with the other children, and her father who is educated does not even have time for her,” she said.

Similarly, a mother of two, Mrs Sarah Ejiga, complained about how her 11-year old son, Godswill Ejiga, a primary four pupil was not able to read or solve simple mathematics.

Ejiga said that the son was given a primary three story book to read, but could not read it perfectly.

Data from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), showed that 70 per cent of children in schools cannot read and write or perform basic numeracy tasks by age 10.

The information was deduced from the National Learning Assessment 2017.

The UN agency further said that Nigeria was facing a staggering learning crisis with learning outcomes being one of the lowest globally.

Some education stakeholders also expressed concern about poor reading or learning ability, saying that education as a major driver for the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria and across the globe should be of concern.

They said: “It is worrisome as the timeline set by the United Nations for achieving the mandate of the 17 goals may not be achievable.’’

They also noted the importance of mothers in improving learning outcomes.

They said that there was need for mothers to complement teachers’ roles at home, through monitoring of their children/wards’ education.

Mrs Peju Rotimi, a mother of three, called on mothers to rise to the occasion in order to help their children to learn, as well as see the importance of education, adding that they will get the benefit if their children are well educated.

Rotimi also encouraged mothers who were not learned to get a home teacher for their children to complement their learning in school.

“Most of the problems start from the home, because nowadays, parents don’t care much about their children/wards education; they are after their work or material things. Only few parents get back home and try to check what their children learnt in school.

“For us to get a head way in our education sector, parents should do their own work at home because they stay more with the children than the teachers.

“So, mothers should be able to check their wards work when they are back from school and see what they can help the children to do,” she said.

Also, Mrs Idowu Oluwafemi, a teacher from Talent Secondary School, Nasarawa State, said that children’s educational background could also be responsible for their inability to read and solve simple numeracy.

Oluwafemi advised parents to start grooming their children early as this would have a way of contributing to the child’s mental and academic background.

She also advised parents to allow their children progress from one class to another.

“We have observed that parents allow their children to jump classes and this affect them, as they will not have the opportunity to learn what their contemporary learnt from the class.

“If a child do not learn what he/she is supposed to learn at that level, it will affect them in the future.

“Some parents also put every responsibility on teachers and they cannot do this alone, considering the students, teachers ratio, especially in public schools,” she said.

She also identified lack of qualified teachers as reason why some of these pupils cannot read at the age of 10, a situation she said must be addressed by the government.

“Governments have to do a lot in improving the academic performance of the pupils, especially those from educational disadvantaged regions or states.

“Also, there is a negative trend as schools don’t even repeat students who performed below expectations again. This situation will continue to spell doom on the sector if nothing is done,” she said.

Mrs Omoyemi Oke, a counselor at Baptist Secondary School, Osogbo, on her part, listed background, unqualified teachers and psychological factors as being responsible for a child’s inability to read and write at age 10.

Oke advised that the school environment of such children should be changed to help them improve on learning and reading ability.

“ A mentally retard student can be worked on because we have methods we can use to teach them, but for a child who is not mentally retard, the school environment must be changed as well as teacher.

“ The parental background of such a child does not have anything to do with his/her reading, as we could see some intelligent parents, but who are not learned,’’ she said.

Sharing UNICEF’s experiences on Reading and Numeracy Activity (RANA), Mrs Manar Ahmed, UNICEF’s Education Specialist, reiterated the need for heavy investment in teachers, both in time and financial resources to achieve SDGs by 2030.

Ahmed spoke at a recent virtual presentation on Scaling Foundational Literacy and Numeracy in Nigeria at a media dialogue in Kano.

She identified low public spending on education, inadequate and under prepared workforce, insufficient physical resource, among others as the problems of learning crisis in Nigeria.

She added that the situation was not peculiar to Nigeria, saying that globally, 53 per cent of 10-year old in low and middle income countries cannot read and understand a simple sentence.

The education specialist also said that 87 per cent of children are in `learning poverty’ as they do not have basic literacy by age 10, with an average of 1.7 per cent of GDP allocated to education, saying this was grossly inadequate.

The expert further said that government should begin to pay adequate attention as tackling teachers training was not enough.

According to her, Nigeria is not lacking the right policy, but staggering learning crisis with learning outcomes is one of the lowest globally.

“In sub Saharan Africa, 87 per cent of children are in learning poverty as they do not have basic literacy by age 10.

“Goal four of the SDG is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education that promotes lifelong learning and all children by age 10 must know how to read and solve numeracy.

“It is not that Nigeria lacks the right policy, but Nigeria is facing staggering crisis with learning outcomes being one of the lowest.

“So, 70 per cent of the children in school are not achieving basic foundational skills,” she said.

She further stressed that 27 per cent of teaching staff in Nigeria are unqualified, as qualified teachers are in short supply, and stressed the need “to learn to read in order to read to learn to achieve the goals of SDGs by 2030.’’

Corroborating UNICEF’s views, Dr Uche Anunne, Editorial Training Coordinator, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said that achieving goal four in the SDGs would directly impact on attaining all other goals.

Anunne called on the government to adhere strictly to the domestication of the UN Convention of the rights of the child as this would eliminate most of the limitations in the SDGs. 

Also, Dr Chidiebere Ezinwa, Department of Mass Communication, Enugu State University of Science and Technology, said that poor domestication of the rights of children was responsible for most challenges experienced in the society.

Ezinwa added that poverty and gender inequality must be bridged as they were essential ingredients to the denial of children’s rights.

He urged different countries to come up with their law to address the problems, saying that duty bearers had been given assignment on what to do to address the problem.

However, the Federal Government, through the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), in 2021 conducted mandatory continued development in digital and online teaching training programmes for teachers.

The Registrar, TRCN, Prof. Josiah Ajiboye said the council from January 2022, targets the training of 45,000 teachers across 24 states under the Global Partnership Education (GPE) Digital Literacy Training as well as Remote Learning Strategies For Teachers.

This, he hopes, will boost teachers’ service delivery. (NAN)

By Editor

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