Professor Deborah Adetunmbi Egunyomi, the Head of Adult Education Department, University of Ibadan, specialises in Continuing Adult Education. She speaks to MODUPE GEORGE on issues in Adult Education, its challenges and the way out. Excerpts:
What is Adult Education all about?
Adult education is a multi-disciplinary field that is all-embracing. It’s all-embracing in that up till now, we have not even got a precise definition of adult education. A layman sees adult education as a kind of education for elderly people, forgetting that the constitutional definition of adult education in Nigeria starts from the age of 18. However, there are different definitions of who an adult is from country to country, region to region, state to state.
Therefore, it makes it extremely difficult to get a precise concept or definition of adult education. When you talk about someone being educated, it means that particular person is seen as a whole being; he could protect himself in the process of human rights at any court of law, have a family and become responsible to his own daily responsibilities.
How would you rate the attitude of Nigerians generally towards adult education today?
Up till now, majority of our people in Nigerian do not know what adult education has for them – even some of the students we lecture here. Each year, we set aside a week for them, which we tag the ‘Orientation Week’, to enlighten them on what adult education stands for. And then, they begin to ask questions on what they could do as an adult educator; and I say to them that it’s a kind of discipline that could make them function in any society. An Adult Educator could get appointment at various ministries. We have agencies for Adult and Non-Formal Education all over the country; and of course, recently, there was an edict passed by the Nigerian National Association of Adult Education (NNAAE) which made the federal government give a statement that every existing university in Nigeria must have an Adult Education Department; and that all colleges of education must also have a Department of Adult Education.
Who can study Adult Education in a university setting?
It depends on individuals; you know what you want. If you want to get a certificate within the university setting, fine. There are various departments and various areas of specialisation in the university system; but the fact remains that once you come for Adult Education, you have varieties of choices to make and you end up like most of the students we have produced within the system who are now successful people all over the place. Whatever any student in the system of Adult Education has chosen to do career-wise in future, we get him\her integrated and perfected.
How has Adult Education fared in Nigeria today?
We are getting there gradually, and I believe that we will soon be there finally. I think now, everyone is trying to get integrated into the programme of Adult Education. The reason we organised a world conference was so that the Nigerian government in particular might get to understand the fact that without the existence and survival of adults, there is no development.
Do you think we have competent adult educators in Nigeria to handle Adult Education, considering the Education for All target?
The rate of illiteracy in this country is still high. According to the UNESCO’s information in its last record of 2010, we still have over 53 per cent who are still illiterate in Nigeria. The answer to that question is straightforward: we don’t have enough adult educators in this country. To have enough Adult Educators, it means at every local government, you must have between five and 10 Adult Educators in the various ministries or secretariats. The Adult Educators in this country have not been able to permeate all nooks and crannies of Nigeria, and that is why the level of illiteracy is still there.
What is the way out?
We seriously need the commitment of the government; they need to sit up and be up and doing to support education programmes in Nigeria, be it at the non-governmental organisation, agency or commission level. Encouragement must be given, so also financial support must be forthcoming, because without money, there is a limit to what we can achieve. Then, the round peg should be in the round hole; let an adult educator be at the helm of affairs of adult education.
What was the takeaway from the recent world conference organised by your department?
It’s that it’s high time all the nations of the world had a precise concept of adult education; and that each government of all nations and countries of the world should be conscious of the fact that without adult education, no nation can develop.