The Minister of Education, Alhaji Adamu Adamu, made the remark when he paid a courtesy call on Gov. Alhaji Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State in Birnin Kebbi on Thursday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the minister and the delegates were in the state for a two-day International Literacy Day conference organised by the National Commission for Mass Education.
Adamu said the country had about 65 million to 75 million illiterates, describing the figure as unbecoming and high, considering the country’s population.
“Education is the bedrock of any country’s development and any country that does not educate its populace is bound to fail.
“Unfortunately, in Nigeria we have a very large population of illiterates; the illiterates figure, considering our population, is unbecoming,’’ he said.
Adamu, who was represented by Mr Jonathan Mbaka, the Director of Basic and Secondary Education, Federal Ministry of Education, said that the federal government was targeting educating out-of-school children.
The minister said this was part of its strategic plan to reduce the number of the illiterates in the country.
“The government is doing all it can to reduce the number of children that are out of school.
“This includes the adoption of inclusive education where every Nigerian will be given the opportunity to go to school, regardless of background, ethnicity and gender,’’ he said.
Adamu commended the governor’s wife, Hajiya Aisha Bagudu, for reducing the number of out-of-school children and illiterates in Kebbi State through her Mass Almajiri Literacy and Poverty Alleviation Initiative (MALPAI).
Responding, the governor said that most of the security challenges the country faced were manifestations of the level of illiteracy in the country.
“We have an army of people whose inability to read can be exploited by divisive elements in the country
Bagudu commended them for ignoring the fears and tension created by a few group of people by assembling in the state to deliberate on how to reduce illiteracy in the country.
“I am very proud that we are hosting eminent delegates from across the federation at the time like this,where there is tension, and fear in Nigeria.
“For you to ignore fears that a few people cannot intimidate us is commendable.
“Our destiny remains in our hands and not allowing inconsequential elements to determine our fate is also commendable,’’ he said.
The governor attributed the high illiteracy rate in Nigeria to Boko Haram insurgency, saying that many of the sect’s followers only knew the Quran but could not interpret and digest its meanings.