In commemoration of the 2023 UNESCO International Literacy Day, observed on the 8th of September under the theme ‘Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies,’ we celebrate the transformative journey of EKO Excellence in Child Education and Learning (EKOEXCEL) in Lagos State, Nigeria.

This program, initiated by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in 2019, has emerged as a shining example of how literacy and numeracy can be revitalised to build a brighter future.

UNESCO’s International Literacy Day was introduced to spotlight the crucial role of literacy in transforming societies and fostering peace and sustainability. Unfortunately, Africa has grappled with low literacy rates for years, with Nigeria being no exception. Statistics have indicated that a significant portion of the Nigerian population struggles with literacy, hindering social and economic development.

In a recent interview on EKO FM, Comrade Akintoye Hassan, Chairman of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) Lagos Chapter, emphasised that literacy forms the bedrock of education. He acknowledged that literacy begins at home, with mothers playing a pivotal role in shaping a child’s future through proper nutrition and early engagement with learning materials.

Hassan also highlighted the changing societal values, noting that teachers’ importance has sometimes been overlooked. Yet, he expressed hope that programmes like EKOEXCEL are working diligently to restore the reverence and admiration that educators deserve.

Nduka Akujobi, EKOEXCEL support team Director of Academics who was also present at the interview, provided insights into the programme’s remarkable impact. Despite a UNICEF report revealing concerns about learning levels in Nigeria, Lagos State has been actively addressing these issues. Akujobi explained how the program has transformed learning environments into joyful and technology-driven spaces.

One of the most remarkable achievements showcased during this International Literacy Day celebration is the substantial improvement in literacy and numeracy levels among primary school pupils in Lagos State. Prior to the launch of EKOEXCEL in 2019, a staggering 40% of primary school pupils in the state were unable to read a single word. Within just three years, this alarming statistic has been halved, with only 19% of pupils unable to read a single word.

These outcomes underscore the efficacy of EKOEXCEL’s contemporary teaching methodologies and Lagos State’s commitment to prioritising education. The programme’s positive reinforcement approach, which discourages corporal punishment and rewards good behaviour in the classroom, has played a pivotal role in achieving significant progress.

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Additionally, the Lagos State government has consistently updated the curriculum to meet global standards, ensuring that pupils are well-equipped to compete on the global stage.

On this International Literacy Day, Comrade Akintoye Hassan’s interview on EKO FM stands as a powerful testament to the EKOEXCEL programme’s transformative impact on education in Lagos State. The journey to enhancing literacy and numeracy levels continues, but the remarkable progress made thus far underscores the dedication of educators and the state government’s commitment to delivering quality education to all.

In addition to these achievements, it is worth noting that the 2023 National Common Entrance Examination saw pupils from Lagos State public primary schools excel. Eighteen pupils under the EKOEXCEL program participated in the examination, with an impressive 50% of them scoring 70% and above. The top-performing pupils have not only excelled but have also brought pride and recognition to Lagos State, solidifying its position as a leader in educational excellence.

The best performing pupils, once again put Lagos State and EKOEXCEL on the map with their exceptional results, running closely behind the national best pupil who scored 203 out of 210.

The top three EKOEXCEL pupils, all girls, Ololade Ganiyat of St Mary’s Convent Primary School, Ugwu Victoria of Enitan Primary School and Chima Faith Mesomachukwu from Community Nursery & Primary School Ijeododo achieved exceptional scores of 199, 191, and 185 respectively.

In conclusion, as we commemorate UNESCO International Literacy Day 2023, we celebrate EKOEXCEL’s commendable journey in illuminating literacy and numeracy in Lagos State, Nigeria. The program’s successes, evidenced by improved learning outcomes and exceptional performance in national examinations, highlight its pivotal role in building a brighter, more literate future.

With dedicated educators, motivated pupils, and unwavering government support, EKOEXCEL serves as a beacon of hope, forging a path towards sustainable and peaceful societies through the power of literacy.