Can Lagos govt reduce urban poverty through mass literacy?

By 2050, the population of Lagos state is expected to double, which will make it the 3rd largest city in the world. The pertinent question TOPE Musowo seems to ask, is: Can mass literacy programme introduced by the state Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, reduce urban poverty, and be allowed to outlive Ambode in the state?
Migration from rural areas Urbanisation is fast becoming the defining feature of global population distribution, while city growths are coming from migration from rural areas. Many poor rural migrants are ending up in the poorest neighbourhoods of these cities. These population movements have always been important pathways into poverty. The above picture captures the situation in Lagos. Lagos population as at 2016 was estimated by Nigeria Population Commission to be 21 million, with more than 250 ethnic groups represented in this most populous city in Nigeria and now the 6th largest economy in Africa While there are many millionaires in Lagos state, about 66 per cent of the population lives in slums, with millions living in and around the lagoons with no access to roads, clean water, electricity or waste. Government’s efforts at reducing illiteracy and poverty Upon realisation that there exist a nexus between illiteracy and poverty, increasing the level of literacy in the city would therefore be a strategic solution to poverty reduction, more so, the vision of making Lagos a smart city that would guarantee economic prosperity and wellbeing of all residents maybe a mirage without tackling the issue of illiteracy. Of course, an illiterate person lacks basic literacy, numeracy and essential skills which make them more vulnerable to activities of criminals and they can easily be lured into anti social groups. Basic literacy is essential for economic empowerment and to understand and follow simple instruction in the areas of health, transportation, safety and others. Therefore, on Thursday October 13, 2016, Lagos State Government launched an Adult Education Programme tagged ‘Lagos is Learning (Èkó ńk kòó)’.The programme according to Governor Ambode, was to raise the literacy level in the state from 85 per cent to 100 per cent within the next three years. The strategy employed Adult education centres in the state were increased from 522 to 1000, while additional 1000 teachers were engaged, and the programme being free of charge for participants so as to accommodate more people. The literacy centres, according to the governor offer courses including education, fashion designing, soap making, hair dressing and bead making, among others. The Special Adviser to the Governor on Education, Mr Obafela Bank-Olemoh, in a statement issued in January 2017, on the training of 1000 facilitators for the adult literacy programme said, the initiative was to improve the standard of living of adults without formal education while growing up and make them self reliant and employable. He said to achieve the set goals of increasing access for adult learners and growing the retention rates, the state government initiated partnerships with religious organizations as well as NGOs, market and mechanic associations, and private sector partners all in a bid to scale up the number of literacy centres across the state. Bank-Olemoh, further disclosed that the centres would double as learning centres for the literacy program and vocational centres for adults seeking to acquire marketable skills for greater functionality. Adult learners, instructors speak According to the vision of Lagos state government, the programme is said to be transforming lives and giving hope to the hopeless in Lagos. Those who spoke with our correspondent while sharing their testimonies said that the programme has led to improvement in the standard of living of the beneficiaries. Mrs Olorunisola, an instructor, said during the clearance for the payment of monthly stipend for the instructors at the Agency for Mass Education, Alausa, commended the effort of the government at ensuring people participate without any cost. “Some of our adult learners at Alimosho centre will be forever grateful to Lagos State government for this opportunity, when many of them came, I did not know where to start with them, because it was like they had never been to any school at all. I always pity them because I know to survive in a cosmopolitan city like Lagos, you need a basic level of literacy, otherwise you would be rip off your hard earned money’’, she said. Another learners, from Agindingbi centre, Ms Modupe Faolu who is in her twenties also narrated her experience with Blueprint, she said in a rather sober tone, ‘’I grew up with my grandma, who did not send me to school for fear of being beaten by my mates and teachers as a child who lost her parents early. But all my life, I have always been hunted by this inability to read and write, where I am currently learning tailoring, before I started this adult education programme, each time I was asked to take measurement of any customer, to write down the measurement I took would be a problem. Everyone always laugh me to scorn, including my juniors, but thank God today, I can not only write down the measurement, I can equally understand when customers are talking to me in English language and respond back in my little way”. Esther’s story is even more pathetic, she is also in her twenties, from the same Agidingbi centre. Esther hails from Benue state, she lives with her sister and help her take care of her children. With her eyes filled with tears she explained: “I have suffered so much humiliation and embarrassment in my life for not being able to read and write, my nieces and nephews make mockery of me and their mothers didn’t help matter as if it’s my fault for not going to school”. “One particular day I will never forget in my life, my aunty gave me twenty thousand naira to deposit to her account while going to the office in the morning, since I could not read nor write, I asked a man I met in the bank to help me fill the teller, I didn’t not know he wrote his name and his account number on the teller, I just paid into his account and went home with the teller. When my sister came back and I handed her the teller, haaaaa, (she sighed) there was nothing my hear did not hear that day, I cried and cried and I felt like killing myself, but here I am today, I go to the bank and fill my teller myself, whatever I cannot spell correctly I ask, I will be forever grateful to Governor Akinwumi Ambode led government’’, she narrated in tears. However, by 2050, Lagos population is expected to double, which will make it the 3rd largest city in the world, therefore, if this programme is not allowed to outlive Governor Ambode in Lagos state, the future of Lagos as a smart city is gloomy because an uneducated population is a disaster waiting to happen.

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