A University Don, Busurat Adekola has attributed the ‘backwardness’ of the country among the comity of nations to low literacy and poor reading culture among its citizenry.
Adekola, a professor of Language Education, who said this while delivering the 104th Inaugural Lecture of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, titled; “The World Cheats Those Who Cannot Read”, noted that the country’s fortunes have not been properly exploited because of the high percentage of the citizens who can neither read nor write.
She described “literacy as a tool for man’s total empowerment, capacity building and a process of skills acquisition for a productive and purposeful life in the society”.
She said literacy is a bedrock of development that developing nations, like Nigeria, must take seriously.
Adekola said, “Nigeria is a developing nation in the wilderness whose fortunes cannot be properly exploited because of the high percentage of its citizenry who cannot read and write”.
“Literacy is at a very low level in the developing nations of Africa of which Nigeria is one. Indeed, the low literacy level of nations has become the major defining characteristic of their economies”.
Adekola adduced low reading habits of Nigerian students who have continued to perform very poorly in the School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) conducted yearly by internationally recognised examining bodies such as the West African Examinations Council (WAEC).
“A great majority of these students are failing to learn to read and many more are unable to read to learn while there are many students at risk and unless we come to their rescue, the age of darkness might be persistent.”
She blamed the homes and government for not showing enough commitment to inculcating functional literacy in children.
“The homes are not literate enough to assist the children to acquire functional literacy and the government is not showing the expected commitment to the teachers to be able to inculcate functional literacy in our children”.
She added that “educators are central to the implementation of the educational curriculum. A positive, enthusiastic and dynamic educator will inspire and encourage the development of functional
literacy through positive attitude, good literacy habits and a demonstrated eagerness to improvise literacy materials”.
“Their action/attitudinal disposition affects individuals they groom and the society at large. The individual they groom, emulates the educators, tap experiences and imitates their speeches and thereby acquiring language which influences a positive
“Educators can do a lot to positively influence and reshape the reading habit of individuals because they are the ‘spark and plug’ of
the educational system, their activities can make or mar functional literacy. Since the educators are the focal point of the process, this implies that if literacy will be achieved, educators must be well
equipped, well disposed towards the literacy project and
knowledgeable enough to inculcate literacy programs”.
She called for the urgent need for a more pragmatic, realistic and feasible language policy in education as a prelude to conscious and conscientious planning for the involvement of Nigerian languages in the literacy development of the populace.
She added that there is a need to bridge the gaps among educational policymakers, planners, executors and language experts so that reading can be accorded its pride and its importance can be felt in society, pointing out that educational institutions should place a greater premium on the teaching of reading.
“Emphasis should be given to both the cognitive and meta-cognitive aspects of reading. Reading and study skills should be cultivated in learners to stem the tide of examination malpractice”, she said.
“Government should intensify adult literacy campaigns so that it can have a positive effect on family literacy, which is the
veritable foundation of the reading culture. This would make it possible for parents to appreciate the values of the family library and home literacy activities in general”.
“Teacher-training institutions must constantly evaluate their
language education programmes as they relate to reading pedagogy so that pre-service teachers can be well grounded in the right knowledge, attitudes and skills that can foster the reading development of various categories of learners”.