The Minister of Education got it all wrong to have said one in every three Nigerian is illiterate

Claim: Representing the Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu, at the 2018 International Literacy Day celebration in Kano, Mr Prinzo James, Deputy Director, Basic and Secondary Education, Ministry of Education, claimed that 60 million Nigerian youths and adults are illiterate; of which 60% are female, and 11 million are out-of school.

Evidence: Mr Prinzo’s figure contradicts Nigeria’s illiteracy rate reported by the CIA. His figure of 60 million is way more than the 80 million quoted by the Agency. Also, the NBS’s figure of illiterate Nigerians of 70 million is more than Prinzo’s reported figure. In fact, the number of out-of-school children isn’t 11 million as he said; it is 13.2 million according to UNICEF.

Conclusion: False

Full Report:
Were three Nigerians to be sampled at random, at least one of them would – by UNESCO’s definition of illiteracy – be unable to read and write with understanding, a short, simple statement about their everyday life.
This submission was made in Kano by Mr Prinzo James, the Deputy Director, Basic and Secondary Education, Ministry of Education, on behalf of the Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu, at the 2018 International Literacy Day celebration.
With an estimated population of 180 million, Mr Prinzo’s estimate of 60 million illiterate youths and adults mean one-third of people who call Nigeria home are illiterate, the report read.
Mr Prinzo also said that of this figure, females account for nearly 60% of the population, with 11 million children out-of-school.
Could it be true that 60 million Nigerians are illiterate, of which 60% are female, and 11 million are out-of-school? Dubawa findings show that the figures are off the track!
Mix up in definition
Mr Prinzo made reference to “youths and adults”. Therefore, the age bracket he was referring to is not clear-cut.
For instance, on one hand, the definition of adult as defined by the Consolidated Antiretroviral (ARV) Guidelines of June 2013 of the WHO is: “a person older than 19 years of age unless national law defines a person as being an adult at an earlier age”.
This implies that, the term “adult”, as used by Prinzo, would include anyone of age 19 and above. Meaning the age bracket under consideration is limitless. The least age limit that can then be considered is Nigeria’s life expectancy – 59.3 years.
On another hand is the term ‘youth’. The Nigerian National Youth Policy (2009)  defines a youth as persons of ages 18-35 years. Hence, when used together, youths and adults would include anyone of age 18 and above — the likeliest limit being 59 years.
Linking the definitions to available facts
With that in mind, the closest backing to Mr Prinzo’s figure (with reference to his youths and adults clause) is contained in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook estimate of 2015. It puts Nigeria’s literacy rate at 59.6% with reference to ages “15 and above”. This means that approximately 26 million of ages 15-24 are literate. Since this age bracket is populated by approximately 40 million people, it, therefore, means an approximate of 14 million are illiterate — in this case, the Deputy Director’s value is still low according to available facts.
And according to the National Population Commission (NPopC), Nigeria’s current population is approximately 198 million — an increase from 193 million in 2016.
That is: approximately 118 million Nigerians are literate. Thereby, leaving the remaining 80 million illiterate. This is way more than the 60 million asserted by the Deputy Director.
Again, in the 2017 report titled “Statistical Report on Women and Men in Nigeria”, published by the National Bureau of Statistics in February 2018, literacy rate among young women and men aged 15-24 years in 2017 is 59.3% and 70.9% respectively. The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS5) then puts the national literacy rate at 65.1%.
In absolute terms, this means that 128 million are literate. So, 70 million are illiterate — again, the Deputy Director’s value contradicts available facts.

Out-of-school children not 11 million
Out-of-school children, according to the UN, are children aged between 6-11, who are yet to enroll in any formal education — excluding pre-primary education. Although, some of these children might have had pre-primary education but dropped out, or might enroll in the future or never enroll at all.

So it is these children Mr Prinzo puts their number at 11 million. But then, his figure, once again, isn’t right. There is no available and verifiable source that suggests that Prinzo’s claim is nearly true.

If he is wrong, what then what would have been the correct figure to quote? 13.2 million? No.

This figure (13.2 million) has been well reported in the media, and it has been a misconception ever since. This figure had been attributed to Ahmed Boboyi, the Executive Secretary of Universal Board of Education Commission (UBEC) who was represented by the Director of Social Mobilisation, Bello Kaigara, at the Northern Nigerian Traditional Rulers Conference on Out-of-School Children pre-conference briefing in Abuja last year October.

Kaigara referenced his figure on the Demographic Health Survey (DHS) which he claimed was conducted in 2015 by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Nigerian government. However, UNICEF has dissociated itself from ever conducting such survey.

So, even if Prinzo had quoted what is almost becoming common knowledge, he would still have been wrong.

Nevertheless, here’s what is right:

The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS5) of 2016/2017 conducted by the NBS and UNICEF and published in 2018 shows that 9.1 million children are out-of-school.

Unlike the UN definition of out-of-school children which doesn’t include those in pre-school, this NBS survey defines out-of-school children as those out-of-school and those attending pre-school.

If this figure is to be reviewed to suit the UN definition of out-of-school children, it simply means Nigeria’s out-of-school children would stand at 7.2 million. Hence, depending on the definition used, 9.1 million or 7.2 million would be correct, and what is even alarming is that it is still the highest anywhere in the world!

While the definition of  “youths and adults” as stated by Mr Prinzo is not clearcut, his figure contradicts reports from the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Bureau of Statistics; same as his out-of-school children figure of 11 million which cannot be accrued to any verifiable source.

The CIA figure for illiterate Nigerians aged 15 and above is 80 million. Likewise, the 2018 publication of the National Bureau of Statistics titled “Statistical Report on Women and Men in Nigeria” puts illiterate Nigerians within ages 15-24 at 14 million.

Either ways, Prinzo’s 60 million figure is in sharp contrast with the above figures.

Also, while Prinzo’s 11 million claim of out-of-school children has no verifiable source, the widely reported 13.2 million said to have been made by UNICEF has been denied by the organization. Rather, according to NBS, the nation’s out-of-school children are 9.1 million.

Mr James Prinzo’s claims are therefore rated false.

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