Nigeria’s Literacy Rate: An Indicator of Social Progress and Economic Achievement

Nigerian school pupil reading a book in the classroom (Credit: Emmanuel Ikwuegbu)

Literacy is often considered as a key indicator of a nation’s social progress and economic achievement. It reflects the outcomes of the primary education system over the previous 30-40 years, providing valuable insights into the quality of education received by the population. In Nigeria, the 2021 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) provides important data on the literacy rate of the country. The results offer a nuanced understanding of the disparities between different regions and population groups, and highlight areas where improvement is needed.

National Literacy Rate

The national literacy rate in Nigeria is 48.9%. This figure is an average of the rates of literacy among women (42.5%) and men (55.2%). The difference in the literacy rate between women and men is a reflection of the gender disparities that exist in the country. Despite the Nigerian government’s efforts to promote gender equality in education, the data shows that there is still a significant gap in literacy rates between women and men.

Urban and Rural Literacy Rates

The urban literacy rate in Nigeria is 67.2%, significantly higher than the national average. This is largely due to the higher levels of access to education and improved living standards in urban areas. On the other hand, the rural literacy rate is 33.7%, which is much lower than the national average. This disparity is a reflection of the challenges that rural communities face in terms of access to quality education and basic amenities.

Regional Literacy Rates

The regional literacy rates in Nigeria also show significant disparities. The highest literacy rate is in the South East region, where 74.2% of women and 73.4% of men are literate. This region also has the highest school attendance rate, which contributes to its high literacy rate. The South West region has the second-highest literacy rate, with 56.6% of women and 68.7% of men being literate. On the other hand, the North East region has the lowest literacy rate, with only 21.5% of women and 40.7% of men being literate.

State Literacy Rates

The literacy rates of individual states in Nigeria also show significant disparities. Some states have high literacy rates, such as Anambra (69.0%) and Imo (75.4%), while others have very low literacy rates, such as Bauchi (18.3%) and Jigawa (16.7%). The disparities between states are often a reflection of their socio-economic status and the level of investment in education by the state government.