CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Although Nigeria began its campaign against illiteracy during the colonial era, it was not until independence that literacy programmes gained increased momentum. In the 1950s, regional governments launched a free primary education programme to enable mass access to primary education, and in 1976, the central government introduced a compulsory, free Universal Primary Education (UPE) scheme. The UPE programme ushered in an era of expanded growth for primary schools and education as a whole. Many teachers were trained through distance learning by the National Teachers Institute (NTI). In 1982, the government of Sheu Shagari launched a ten-year mass literacy campaign which included the establishment of state agencies whose main objective was to combat illiteracy in Nigeria. In 1996, the UNDP began to assist the literacy programmes with equipment, technical and financial resources. This enabled the government to transform the UPE into the Universal Basic Education scheme (UBE, 1999). Unlike the UPE, which endeavoured to promote access to primary education, the UBE sought to promote access to education for all, including adults, out-of-school youths, children and people living in special circumstances, such as nomads. During the period 1995-2004, these programmes raised the national literacy rate to 84% and 69% for youth and adults, respectively. Other efforts are currently underway to use the media, especially the radio, to reach the country’s 60 million and more illiterates.
Since the mid- 1960s, the Federal Government has played a critical role in providing education services to adults with inadequate literacy skills (Aderinoye, 2007). Unlike elementary and secondary education, where a mature State and local infrastructure existed before the Federal Government entered the field, public adult education is in many ways a Federal creation. The main engines of the Federal role in adult education are the categorical grant programs-chief among them the Adult Education Act (AEA)-that support adult literacy and basic skills education. The Federal role is more than the sum of its grant programs, however. The Federal Government influences adult literacy services in other important ways-through executive branch initiatives and regulations, Federal leadership and public awareness activities, census counts and studies documenting and defining illiteracy, research and development, and congressional and departmental budget decisions. This chapter traces the evolution of the Federal role in adult literacy over time, analyzes current Federal efforts, and considers Federal policy on technology in adult literacy.