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Dr P.N. Opara
Functional literacy is the focal point of a good educational system. This study therefore X-rays functional literacy in the primary and Junior Secondary Schools in Imo State under universal basic education. The study reveals the meaning of functional literacy, the true situation on the ground, facilitator of functional literacy, indicators of functional literacy and recommendations. Questionnaire were used to establish the indicators of functional literacy. Also interview was used to find out the true situation regarding level of adequacy of the operation of the universal basic education in ImoState. The result of the study revealed that though the UBE in ImoState has been making effort in the area of the provision of infrastructure, a lot needed to be done for functional literacy to be realized.
Literacy is the ability to read and write and the ability to use language proficiently (Collins Concise dictionary). The word functional simply means to be practical. Functional literacy therefore is the practical ability to:-
Functional literacy helps in the realization of national goals which is the foundation and bases for the national policy on education. The National goals of Nigeria which can only be realized through functional literacy include to build.
Education is an instrument of change and also an instrument for national development, through fostering the worth and development of individuals. There is an urgent need for functional literacy for the promotion of a progressive and united Nigeria. Consequently the quality of instruction at the primary and junior secondary school levels have to be oriented towards inculcating values such as:-
The UNESCO and the UNDP for a long time have exerted their energy and resources to alarge extent in the reduction of illiteracy in the world, hence the Slogan “Literacy is a human right”. In the 1980s “Education for all by the year 2000” re-assured Nigerians that illiteracy in Nigeria would be a thing of the past by the year 2000. In the period 1965-1974, the UNESCO and the UNDP pursued a project called “Experimental world literacy program” (EWLP) which aimed at promoting economic growth among the poor nations with emphasis on the literacy of the populace. Also the year 1990 was declared the “International Literacy year” followed by the “Decade for Literacy”. Inspite of all the efforts made by individual nations, the UNESCO and the UNDP on the other hand, the rate of literacy in the world is depreciating. See table.
UNICEF Report (March 1990)
A functionally literate person therefore is one who possesses the level of literacy adequate for one to function normally and effectively in the society. Ansre (1976) asserted that any country which takes seriously, the need to deploy its human resources maximally cannot afford to do so on linguistic grounds. If the language or languages selected to be used for resource exploration and wealth acquisition are those mastered only by a small minority of the population, the under employment and the emergence of an exploiting and wealthy minority can be the only result expected. There is no way we can achieve maximum development without harnessing the literacy capacity of the youth. Unfortunately, most of our youth especially in the south-east avoid going to school. They prefer going to learn a trade and make a living through it. Surprisingly, the so called illiterate craft or trades men own most of the small-scale enterprises (SME) in Nigeria Nwachukwu (2006) emphasized that if the illiterate small scale industry operators will increase their productivity in terms of modifying their know-how, increase the rate and range of their services, give more job placement to our unemployed youths, accumulate capital and know-how to re-invest it into the economy, modernize their products and know where and how to market them here and outside Nigeria, we must give them literacy and numeracy. The “Asian Tigers” emerged a world legend in economic supremacy as a result of functional education and literacy (World Bank report 1995). It is a common observation that our youths of primary and Junior Secondary School, even Senior Secondary Schools and sometimes university student cannot speak and write correct and good English. The universal basic education has the responsibility of making sure that the literacy given to our pupils and student is functional.
2. Provision of free universal basic education for every Nigerian child of school going age.
3. The drastical reduction in the incidence of dropout from the formal school system through improved relevance, quality and efficiency.
4. Catering for the learning needs of young person who for one reason or the other have had to interrupt their schooling through appropriate forms of complementary approaches to the prevision and promotion of basic education.
5. To ensure the acquisition of the appropriate level of literacy, numeracy, manipulative, communicative and life–skill as well as the ethical, moral and civic values needed for laying a solid foundation for life-long learning.
The role of the federal ministry of education in the implementation of the UBE Scheme can not be over emphasized. The federal ministry of education is the Chief Matron and Midwife of the UBE scheme. The states and local government are accountable to her. The role of the federal ministry of education in the UBE Scheme include
1. To provide a legal framework in form of an enabling law stating the structure of the scheme and the role of other stakeholder
2. To provide adequate funding for the scheme.
3. To engage and adopt massive re-orientation and redirection and mobilization of the citizens about UBE.
4. To establish a powerful and effective commission to plan, supervise, monitor and evaluate the implementation of the scheme on a regular basis.
5. To provide adequate infrastructural facilities.
6. To take the issue of teachers welfare and salaries seriously. Lack of good remuneration, staff development and attractive, welfare package for teachers erode dedication and commitment of teacher.
7. To provide for data collection, analysis and dissemination of information
8. To provide the curricular, textbook and instructional materials.
The national policy on education (2004) specified that basic education shall be 9 years duration comprising of 6 years of primary education (lower basic) and 3 years of Junior Secondary education (upper basic). Also the policy stated that the education at this level shall be free and compulsory under the universal basic education program of the federal government. The policy also specified that skill acquisition at this level shall be by pre-vocational training which will introduce them to the world of technology. For our youths under the universal basic education to be functionally literate, they most be proficient in reading and writing, general knowledge, information and communication technology and saleable skill acquisition to make a living. The curriculum contact of the early secondary school was narrow, yet it met with the needs of those days. The graduates were functionally literate and could give meaning to their lives. In recent years the growth and development in information and communication technology has rendered the old system to some extent obsolete. For the present day student to be proficient and functionally literate they must undergo basic training in information and communication technology (ICT) especially computer education. Adamu (2006) noted that the Nigerian government has identified I.C.T as a venture that can help in the delivery of quality and functional education or literacy. He added that ICT will greatly improve the life of Nigerians. Galbreath (2000) noted that the prevalence and rapid development of information and communication technology (ICT) has transformed human society from the information technology age to the knowledge age. (Lopez 2003) added that ICT has significant impact on traditional school system, provided innovative opportunities for teaching and learning, and has also engendered advances in research on how people learn, thereby bringing remarkable changes in the structure of education. The International ICT literacy (2001) specified that cognition proficiency, technical proficiency and ICT proficiency are the fundamental set of skills and knowledge required to fully attain the proficiency needed in the use of ICT tools and resources.
Ighofovwe (2005) reiterated that the last 20 years has experienced great changes in the way of life as a result of explosion in information technology. He added that the people of the world are developing strategies on how to adapt to the new world information system.
Facilitators of functional literacy
A few interviews with the staff of the schools management board and the state universal basic education in Owerri revealed that all the facilitators above are inadequate in all the Junior secondary school. Which means a lot of work still needed to be done by the government of Imo State and the state universal basic education. Also the government has promised free universal basic education and free books, which means that books will be bought for the pupils or the students by the government. To what extent is it achieved? The real situation on ground is that books are not bought for the students. Most parents have relaxed and are not buying books for their children. Without relevant and approved text books, how can functional literacy be realized. It is like going to farm without farm implements.
The available classroom in the junior secondary school are inadequate, hence a single class that should be 25 to 30 students takes about 60 to 80 students. Some students stay outside the classroom, by the widow side. Most class rooms do not have window nor ceiling and in some cases the roofs are leaking. The classrooms are not comfortable for learning purposes.
Laboratories like the introductory technology laboratory and science laboratory are not existing. Coupled with the lack of technical teachers. Imo State has no department of technical education in the universities. Hence teachers of introductory technology are not being produced in the state this is the major reason for lack of technical Teachers in the state.
The teachers in primary and junior secondary school do not have adequate remuneration, regular payment and good welfare facilitate to encourage and motivate them to put in their best. Because, salary is not regular most teachers look for a second job or private practice to meet up with challenges of life.
Identification of Measures of Functional Literacy
From the percentage of respondents, it can be observed that all the indicators of functional literacy listed are important in assessing an individual's level of literacy. If we consider our performance in the place of work after our education in relation to the indicators of functional literacy, we can now be able to say if we are functionally literate or not. Also, we are now looking at the changes that has taken place in a person as a result of the education or training he has undergone.
Adamu A.U (2006)Information and Communication Technology: A challenge to educational development in Africa. Abuja. Conference paper. African Convention of Principals. August, 2006.
Ansre G.L(1976) National Development and language policy formation and implementation paper presented at the 21st West African language congress, University of Ife, Ile-Ife
Fafunwa, A.B.(1974): A History of Education in Nigeria, London: George Allen and Unwin
Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004) National Policy on Education. Yaba Lagos Nigeria: NERDC Press
Galbreath, J. (2000), Knowledge management technology in education: An Overview of Education Technology, 40 (5), 28-33.
International ICT Literacy Panel (2001) Digital transformation: Aframe work for ICT literacy. Retrieved 2005 htt://.www.est/org/media/test/information and communication technology litereacy/ictreport.paf.
Ignoforwe J. (2005).The place of information and communication technology in the administration of secondary schools in
Lopez, V. (2003) An exploration of the use of information technologies in the college classroom. College quarterly 6 (1) retrieved March 8th 2004 from http://www.collegequaterly.ca/2003-vol06-num01-fall/lopez.htm.
Majasan, J.A. (1998) Qualitative Education and D
Nwachukwu J. (2006) Functional Literacy and Adult Learning in Nigeria: Mother tongue is a Realistic
Olelewe, J. (2006) ICT and Functional Literacy, paper presented at the Regional Conference of the Reading Association of Nigeria, Abakiliki 15th -18th Nov.
UNICEF (1990) World Conference on Education for all background document WCEFA JOMTEIN –Tailand New York.