WALTER UKAEGBU, Abuja
There is something curious about the Federal Capital Territory Department of Mass Education Centre, Karu, Abuja.
Located near the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) training school the crowds that mill around the expansive centre every Saturday makes it an uncommon place to be at weekends.
The atmosphere is always charged. Like a typical campus, the centre plays host to diverse individuals. For the obvious fact that it is not the only mass education centre in Abuja the atmosphere that reigns at the place has continued to elicit questions.
Abdulkadir Suileman, a teacher described the situation as amazing: “Coming to this place tells you about how much people love education. Traders and market women would leave their businesses and converge here every weekend. I don’t teach here but I visit the centre every weekend.”
Literacy education in Nigeria history has been known to find its roots in the efforts of missionary endeavour. But subsequent work in the field has always been in piece meal and unco-ordinated, even though a degree of success has been achieved and valuable experience gained.
Government’s decision to launch a mass literacy campaign in the early eighties is described as primarily a political response to the needs and exigencies of a developing country rich in both natural and manpower resources.
The campaign is seen not only as a necessary means of creating a permanently literate society within specific years but also as an assertion of the nations unity.
Mallam Gamba Mohammed, 33, a beneficiary of the mass literacy education said he is excited to have another opportunity to be educated as according to him he could not go to school earlier because his parents were poor.
He is from Orozo Area of Abuja. He said when he discovered the school he immediately enrolled to learn how to read and write. He is now in an equivalent of JSS3 in the school, where he attends part-
time after closing from his market business.
Another beneficiary, 30-year-old Hajia Aisha Bitrus, said the mass education opportunity she now has helped her in her fashion design business as she understands more now than before.
She expressed appreciation to the FCT, the organizers of the mass literacy education for helping them without charging any fee.
Mr. Musa Mekasuwa Yakubu, Director, Department of Mass Education, Karu site Abuja said they educate the adults, girl child, youths that have been out of school as a result of one reason or the other.
He said for administrative convenience, the agency has six zonal office structures spread across the six area councils of the FCT. They are located at Abaji, Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kwali, Kuje and Karu. The zonal offices are headed by zonal co-ordinators and assisted by area officers that implement the
programmes of the agency at the grassroots level.
Yakubu informed that their target groups are all those who did not have any form of education, young adults who require life skills, women and completers of formal schools who may wish to learn a new skill.
He explained that they use the term facilitator who is one in charge of a centre and occupies the position of a teacher in the non- formal sector. The fellow he said is responsible for assisting learners to learn and must have the skill of teaching in a non – formal education setting.
Some of the divisions in the mass literacy education include the vocational education which runs programmes for the youth, through the Vocational Enterprise Institutes (VEIS) located in the six area
councils of the FCT, at Abaji, Kwali, Kuje, Bwari and Municipal Karshi.
The vocational enterprise institutes offer, woodwork, metal work, welding and fabrication, block laying and concreting. Others include electrical installation, electrical/electronics, hospitality and tourism.
He disclosed that students are tested at the end of their training in their specific fields of specialization by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, leading to the award of standards 11 and 111 of Labour Trade Test (LTT).
The Vocational Education Division also has the vocational enterprise institute, special needs education, women education programme and entrepreneurship education and gender.
He said the fundingof the scheme is from government, stressing that presently they are not getting enough funds to run its activities. He called for more funds from government, donor agencies and private organizations.
Over 39,000 learners were enrolled in various programmes from the six area councils of the FCT.
READ ALSO Why the election primaries matter
While maintaining that finances have continued to pose a challenge, he also stated that they need more facilitators (teachers) especially in subjects like Electronics, Computers and other technical departments.
He said presently they are paying 500 facilitators while their permanent staff is not more than 200 including the administrative staff. The director explained that each centre should have up to five or six facilitators excluding administration to operate presently.
With a view to finding ways of generating money within, the mass education outfit embarked on the construction of an ICT block which can be open to the public and would serve as an ICT centre that can be used by JAMB to conduct its examination.