The Role of Private Agencies in the Promotion of Mass Literacy

The Role of Private Agencies in the Promotion of Mass Literacy

This chapter reviewed what other authors, writers, educationist and adult educators have said about the contribution of private agencies to mass literacy campaign. It deals specifically with:

  1. The meaning of private agencies
  2. The concept of literacy/mass life
  3. The role of private agencies in mass literacy campaign.
  4. The eradication of mass illiteracy.

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 Meaning of Private Agencies

“Anifowshe (1990) sees private agencies as those institutions that are privately funded and therefore free to operate and direct their programme towards set objectives” from the above definition, it should be noted that those objectives may or may not agree with those of the government or public institutions. In most cases, the objectives of private agencies are in sharp conflict with those of the government. This result to lack of unity of purpose, instead of collaboration and systematic approach to the problem of literacy.

In the same article, Anifowoshe classified private agencies into the following four types:

  1. Religious: Churches and Islamic groups etc.
  2. Business and Industry: Private airlines, and Newspaper Companies etc.
  3. Voluntary Association: Boy’s Brigade, Boy’s Scout etc.
  4. Social Club: Rotary, Lions, Soroptimist, etc. All of these private agencies (and many more) are engaged in one form of programme or the geared toward the promotion of mass literacy campaign. Just as these agencies are different in names so also are their programmes, methods and goals. Since the objectives of the private agencies are primarily geared toward meeting needs of special group, their concern therefore, is in furthering the cause of the special groups they represent.

“According to Awanbor (1992) in his private schools; in a free education system”, he noted that: private schools are by all means private, that is, they entrepreneur who though individual or collectives ownership or proprietorship venture into the business of education just as in other economic fields like industry, Manufacturing and trading.

The above definition suggests that private agencies sees education as an economic investment which is primarily aimed at profit maximization. Unfortunately, the business of education is unlike other business ventures in the strict economic sense may not be motivated by outright profit making. The point must be made, however that the set up of such institutions require initial and running capital outlay what in budgetary terms are called capital and re-current expenditures in its essence, private institutions are owned by individuals who finance them and are responsible for running them in line with government policy and guidelines.

The missionary schools could be rightly regarded as private institutions to a large extent because they were initiated and administered by the missionary bodies that set them up on the issue of financing they were funded from charitable donations.

According to Ikejiani (1964): “Because these children were maintained on the charity of others, the schools which were for their education were known as charity schools”.

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Until 1877 schools and teachers were maintained from Sunday collections and donations from abroad. At one stage the mission resorted to changing fees which ranged from four pence to six pence a month in the primary schools and four guineas to six guineas a year in the Grammar Schools. The pattern was that fees would be lower in areas where there already existed some reluctance to go to school and higher in areas where much enthusiasm for the school was expressed.

Omoluwa (1981) rightly observed that Christianity and Islam established schools in Nigeria to teach children literacy and morals and to prepare them for the world of works. They also established evening classes for adults to learn how to read and write. Arabic or English or mother tongues in the mass literacy campaign of the early 1940’s religious bodies such as Young Men Christian Association (YWCA), Baptist Convention and the Anbarud-dean mission were actively involved.

According to Islam, the aim of education is to facilitate the balanced growth of the total personality of man through the training of man’s spirit intellect, rational self, feelings and bodily senses (Al-Attas, quoted in Lemu, 1985 p.2). From an Islamic point of view, knowledge and faith to together. Education should therefore produce men who have faith as well as knowledge. A tradition of the prophet Mohammed has it that education is from cradle to the grave. In line with these injunctions, there are Moslem educational activities to teach literacy and promote understanding of Islam. Friday Sermon, delivered weekly as a part of jumat service, lasting about 30 minutes, explains Islamic stand on a given issue affecting the society (Bidinas, 1986).


The Concept of Literacy/Mass Literacy

The traditional definition of literacy is that, it is the ability to read and write, and to compute with figures; it is the ability to encode and decode with a view to communicating information, knowledge, skills, meanings and ideas for the facilitation of day-to-day living.

The traditional definition is faulted for being too simplistic its fail to realize that reading and writing skills are only the quantitative and measurable aspects of literacy whereas the full meaning of the term literacy is multidimensional and quantitative in nature.

According to (1979) “Literacy is considered a fundamental human right, a basic human need, an instrument for social and economic development and a means to politicize a generation”.

The above definition assumed that once a nation’s population has been made literate, development of every type would spring up, that is, literacy by itself would engender or cause development. Hence all effort were directed towards that end, in terms of universal primary education for the youths and children, and mass adult literacy for the older population. But unfortunately, while the advanced nations are succeeding in their efforts to eliminate illiteracy, the third world countries are not making any unconquerable social malaise.

It was in a bid to resolve the controversy associated with the definition of the concept that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1962 offered the following definition of literacy.

A person  is literate when he was acquired the essential knowledge and skills which enable him to engage in all those activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning in his group and community, and those attainments in reading, writing and Arithmetic make it possible for him own and the community’s development.

In defining literacy this way, UNESCO opened a flood-gate for various interpretations of the concepts. However, the message was put clearly that: the concept of literacy should be understood as the ability to read, write and compute in any language and to an appreciable level; furthermore, the acquired skill should make the literate person function effectively in his community” functioning effectively in this sense means using the acquired skill to develop nit just himself but his community. The ultimate goal of the acquisition of the literacy skills, is development. The UNESCO definition has afford us opportunity to draw a line between persons that are literate and those who are illiterate. We are also introduced to such other bye-concepts as functional literacy, illiteracy and semi-literacy.

Mass literacy involved the mobilization of the available resources towards the achievement of the total eradication of illiteracy from the society. Section seven of the National Policy of Education (NPE) published 1981, states that:

In character and content all mass literacy programme will be adopted in each case to local cultural and socio logical conditions and each will also contain basic civics instruction aimed at generating qualities of good citizenship and active involvement by all in the national development process. This will be implemented by the mass literacy boards working in close co-operation with the Ministries of Education, the National Commission for the Development of Adult Education and the Universities Adult/Continuing Education Departments.

According to Anyanwu et al (1981), “once a society becomes conscious of its educational gap, it usually tries to fill this gap in the shortest possible time and in the most inexpensive way”.

In relation to the above statement, the mass media is a convenient avenue of cutting down the cost of mass literacy. Books, Newspapers, Educational Broadcasts, Educational Films, Public Lectures and the television are some of the established media for mass communication and education schools, Adult Education Centre, Continuing Education Centre and Universities, especially through their extra-moral programmes, make good use of these sources of information’s. In Nigeria, Newspaper educate adults in political, economic and social areas.


The Role of Private Agencies in Mass Literacy Campaign

In discussing the role of private agencies (private schools) in the 9:3:4. system of Education at a seminar organized for proprietors of private educational institutions in Bendel State (1988), the former commissioner for Education Professor Agnes Udeubo noted that:

These schools have been allowed to run in order to supplement government’s effort in providing educational opportunities for its growing population of children of the state and those of other states resident in Edo State.

This means that private schools are to complement government effort in the task of providing education for all. They are to function in accordance with the laid down policy or government guidelines. Therefore, private agencies constitute an integral part of the innote efforts in the crusade against illiteracy in our society. Private institutions should therefore be seen and accepted as partners in the on-going national mass literacy campaign. Private institutions and agencies are expected to co-operate and collaborate with the government in all its efforts to remove ignorance, disease and poverty which are all directly related to illiteracy.

According to Anifowoshe (1990), the actual role ascribed to private agencies in mass literacy campaign is: “Basically, private agencies perform the role of a “broker” that is a contract-negotiator” between the learner and his community. Another vital role of the private agencies is the helping the illiterate acquire relevant skills that will enable him to function both within the special interest groups for which the private agency represents and also the community at large”. This means that private agencies are to act as the auxiliary arms of the government in enlisting literacy workers and enrolling illiterates into reading classes. Therefore, the expected role of private agencies also include that of helping to identity areas of need i.e the type of literacy skills that are essential and appropriate for learners.

Similarly, in assessing the relevance of private schools in a free economy, Edigin (1992) ascertained that “Private Schools do have smaller classes which allow teachers to give individual attention to the students and lead students to feel they have made greater personal progress in several areas”.

Given these fact, it would appear that the decision is dependants on the individual concerned. If parents feel that their children would profit greater individual attention in order to reach their potential, then private school may be the best alternative. It is also the belief that private school provide a better environment than the public schools for moral growth.

Anifowoshe (1990), Summarizes the expected roles of private agencies to include:

  1. Training of literate teacher through teacher training workshop.
  2. Training of adult literacy organizers who in turn are expected to organizes literacy classes in different locations especially in the rural areas; and
  3. Private agencies are also expected to help in conducting refresher courses on a regular basis through literacy seminars.

It also identified the following as the actual roles of private agencies which is refer to a the five core brokering” activities

  • (i) Learning Resources: That is helping illiterate acquire relevant skills, through provision of adequate learning resource.
  • Information Giving: Providing relevant information about resources and supportive services to assist the adult in clarifying his or her life plan.
  • Counseling: Assisting the client to make his or her own decision based on a realistic account of interest, abilities, values and goal aspirations.
  • Referral: To direct clients to appropriate learning resource or additional supportive services in the community.
  • Advocacy: To speak out in support of client on the cause of the illiterates whenever it is necessary.

 Eradication of Illiteracy

Several attempts have been made at eradication illiteracy from the Nigerian society since 1940 when a committee was set up by the government to look into the prospect of launching mass education in Nigeria, as well as in the other Colonies Under British colonial rule. According to Odunran (1991): “The difficulties frequently encountered in combating illiteracy especially among adult have compelled scholars to propose some approaches which have been tried out in several parts of the world.

The most prominent ones among the approaches are each one teach one; each one find a teacher: intensive/selective; and conscientization”. It is hard to believe that as challenging as these approaches, illiteracy has remained with us. Regrettably, Nigeria still carriers a bulk of illiterate estimated over 65% of per total population.

Anyanwu, Etal (1982) pointed out that: The mass education campaign started to run into trouble in part of Nigeria by 1955.

Education has ceased to be a central government concern since 1st October, 1954. the result was that each region in Nigeria had the responsibility over education in its own area.

From, the above, it is obvious that the transfer of power to mange education from the central to the regional governments in 1954 was aimed at decentralizing education in order to achieve wide spread literacy throughout the country. But unfortunately, education become politicized by the various regional governments. Consequently, there were different emphasis and lack of uniformity in educational programme among the different region. For example, the western region decided to concentrate on free and compulsory primary education, the Northern Region discovered that inspite of the money spent on the campaign, the progress achieved was very small, while the western region, on the other hand, followed the example of the west at free education, but realized that the expenditure was almost prohibitive.

According to ISanman (1988): “The problem of eradicating mass illiteracy revolves round human and material resources and they desire special attention of administration and adult educators. The success or failure of any literacy campaign depends on how effectively or ineffectively the scare resources are utilized. For example, between 1950 and 1960, Soviet Union was able to mobilize literates and other resources to wipe out illiteracy, but the developing countries could not succeed.

This statement suggest that political consciousness is only a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the success of a literacy campaign. Therefore, emphasis should be placed on planning, motivating adult learners, creating conducive environment for them and efficiently implementing the decisions taken.

The National Policy on Education (1981) states that: in order to eliminate mass illiteracy within the shortest possible time, on intensive nation-wide mass literacy campaign will be launched as a matter of priority and also a new all-out effort on adult literacy programme throughout the country.

The mass literacy campaign will be planned with a limited duration of ten years during which all available resources will be mobilized towards the achievement of the total eradication of illiteracy.

At the end of the time the set up adult education services should be adequate to cany on the task.

The above program was launched throughout the country on the 8th September, 1982. it has been vigorously pursued at both federal states an local governments levels Since the programme was initiated. Similarly, the private agencies have also championed the crusade of mass literacy campaign through direct involvement in establishment of schools, training of adult literacy organizers and providing funds and material resources needed for the effective and efficient execution of the programme.

It is regrettable however, that inspite of the resources committed into the programme since it was launched twelve years ago, meaningful impact has not been made and illiteracy is still with us.

According to Jolly (1982); “Mass extensive campaign has worked out in so many countries. Mass extensive campaign is an attempt usually made with the support of political will and the development of substantial national resources. Many communist and almost all newly independent developing nations use mass literacy campaigns. Two ideas feature prominently in this approach; First the idea that each literate person could teach at least one illiterates person and, second the idea that illiterate would have an innate motivation to became literate and would avail themselves of all opportunities to learn if dances were made available to them.

Using this technique, soviet union did succeed in eradication illiteracy in less than twenty years by means of a concerted attack on the problem with the aid of volunteers from the trade unions and the young communist league. The soviet union utilized all the communication media to induce people to attend literacy classes, sometimes, supplemented by monetary prizes for new literate while encouraging all literates people to teach them China and Cuba also recorded significant success. In fact, Cuba eradicated illiteracy among 700, 000 of its 6.9 million people within nine months.

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