Lagos State has emerged winner of the 5th Lafarge Africa National Literacy Competition (LANLC).
Two students from Lagos State nine-year-old Lawal Kehinde and Idowu Ayomikun, 11, won the competition. The duo was declared the winner at the grand finale of the competition on Thursday in Lagos.
10 other persons participated, including two each representing Kano, River, Nassarawa, Gombe and Ebonyi states respectively.
Kehinde and Ayomikun are Primary six students of St. Augustine Primary School, Somolu, and Diary Farm Primary School, Agege, Lagos.
Lafarge Africa has been organising the National Literacy Competition in the past five years to support government efforts in raising the standard of literacy among pupils in public primary schools.
The age bracket for the participants at this year’s competition with the theme, “Bridging the Literacy Gap Together”, ranged between nine and 13 years.
The Chairman, Lafarge Africa, Mr Bolaji Balogun, said that the competition was an intervention in Nigeria’s education sector.
Balogun said the competition was designed in line with the company’s sustainability strategy, which, he said, complements the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4 — Quality Education.
According to him, Nigeria’s population was forecast to reach 440 million people by 2050, ranking it as the third-largest country globally by demographic size.
Balogun noted that already, the country has not just infrastructure deficit, but a huge gap in its education and health sector.
“Nigeria’s real wealth is not in its crude oil but in its people.
“However, the nation’s annual budget is spent on the wrong things, recurrent expenditure and debt servicing, with less than nine per cent allocated to education,” he said.
The chairman said public-private sector collaboration was required to bridge the literacy gap, adding that the competition was an initiative that seeks to address the issue.
He disclosed that it was organised and delivered across all 109 senatorial districts in all 36 states of the federation and the FCT.
Balogun said it worked with implementation partners such as State Universal Basic Education Commission (SUBEBs) across Nigeria, Ovie Brume Foundation, OANDO Foundation, UNESCO and British Council.
In his remarks, Prof. Anthony Anwukah, Minister of State for Education, said that the Federal Government was making efforts to improve the literacy level in the country.
Anwukah said that through initiatives that include the development of school facilities across the country and the National Home Grown School Feeding Programmes, the government had been able to increase school enrollment and completion level.
He said that the dropout rate of primary school students was about 30 per cent and known to be a major root of illiteracy.
Anwukah said the government recognised the need for collaboration with the private sector, saying the government would continue to work with Lafarge to enhance literacy development in the country.
Celebrated Nigerian playwright and Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, who spoke earlier, said that efforts should be made to improve literacy level in the country.
The playwright expressed happiness that some states in the country, known for their high illiteracy level, qualified to the final stage of the competition, stressing that the country’s future was bright.
Soyinka urged government, educationists and the media to ensure that the high quality of literacy was upheld.
Director of Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainable Development at LANLC, Mrs. Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, in her remarks, said the objective of the competition was to create more literacy enhancement opportunities for indigent students across Nigeria.
“We have been doing this successfully for the past five years and we are quite happy with the positive impact we have made so far.
“LANLC is part of our overall sustainable development strategy, the LafargeHolcim 2030 Plan, which has four action-pillars — Climate, Circular Economy, Water & Nature and People & Communities — each with specific actions and targets to ensure we achieve our ambitions,’’ she said.
According to her, since the inception of the competition, more than 500,000 pupils in 886 public schools across 544 local government areas (LGAs) have been impacted.
In the competition’s 5th edition, Kano State came 6th, Rivers 5th, Nassarawa 4th, Gombe 3rd and Ebonyi came 2nd in the competition.
The first to third place winners got cash prizes of N250,000, N150,000 and N100,000 respectively with other consolation prizes.
The overall winners from Lagos State also got scholarships to complete their secondary school education.