Adult Education in Nigeria: What it is and Why it Matters

by Favour Anthony
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adult education in Nigeria

Learning never stops. It has no age restrictions; hence, education is a lifetime process. Not everyone is fortunate enough to complete their education at a young age. On the other hand, some people may want to pursue a new career in their later years, which is quite different from what they enjoyed when they were younger. For anyone who fits into any of these groups, adult education is what they need to make their ambitions a reality.

What is Adult Education?

Unquestionably, adult education is an important aspect of every society as it provides individuals with the opportunity to continue learning and enhancing their abilities outside the traditional school system. In Nigeria, it plays a vital role in empowering adults with the necessary knowledge and skills to stay competitive in the job market.

In an ever-changing world, staying updated with the latest skills and knowledge is paramount for anybody who wants to succeed in their personal and professional lives. The beauty of adult education, however, is in its ability to meet the specific needs and interests of adult learners and promote lifelong learning, critical thinking, and intellectual growth.

Adult education encompasses many learning programs, including literacy classes, vocational training, and continuing education courses. They are designed specifically to enable adult learners to acquire new knowledge, improve their employability, and participate actively in the country’s socio-economic development.

Importance of Adult Education

In addition to providing adults with a means of expanding their knowledge and learning new skills, adult education also enables them to enhance their general quality of life. Due to recent technological advancements and globalisation transforming industries and job markets, only adults who have updated their skills can stay relevant in the dynamic world.

Another incredible fact is that it promotes lifelong learning, fostering a culture of curiosity and intellectual growth. Adult learners get to explore new subjects, engage in critical thinking, and broaden their perspectives. Aside from increasing employability, taking part in adult education programs helps people acquire a range of transferable skills, including problem-solving, communication, and teamwork.

Adult Education in Nigeria – An Overview

Adult education is a teaching and learning process specifically designed to meet the educational needs of adults who could not complete their formal education or have limited educational opportunities. Although it is not entirely incorporated into Nigeria’s educational framework, the government still recognises adult education and is an important part of the nation’s educational system.

In Nigeria, adult education programs are coordinated and promoted nationwide by the Federal statutory organization known as the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult, and Non-formal Education (NMEC). Adult education programs are designed to ensure people can afford to learn, regardless of whether they live in an urban or rural region.

Challenges Faced by Adult Education in Nigeria

Despite the importance of adult education in Nigeria, it faces several challenges, some of which are listed below: 

  1. High rate of illiteracy

One of Nigeria’s main problems with adult education is the high percentage of adult illiteracy. According to UNESCO, Nigeria has one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the world, with over 38 million adults lacking even the most basic literacy abilities. 

Because of this, adult education is severely hampered because, to teach adult learners to read and write, adult schools must start from scratch. However, learning would have been faster if adult learners could perform some tasks, such as researching, while the teachers were facilitators.

  1. Lack of information and awareness

Ignorance steals opportunities. Even in locations where adult education programs exist, many adults in Nigeria are unaware of them. People who lack information are unable to benefit from educational resources and initiatives. By employing various media channels, including radio, television, and social media, it is possible to raise awareness of adult education in areas where it is not popular.

  1. Inadequate infrastructural development

Another challenge is the limited availability of resources and infrastructure for adult education. Many adult education centres lack adequate funding, qualified teachers, and learning materials, making it challenging to deliver quality education to adult learners. 

In addition to pursuing their new career, these adults, mostly parents, have other responsibilities, such as providing for their immediate family and making ends meet. So, when these societal structures are not in place, many can get discouraged.

  1. Cultural barriers

Adults quickly lose interest in education when living in societies whose cultural norms and beliefs prioritise other responsibilities more than personal development. This reality undermines the goals of adult education, which deters adults from taking on new challenges.

Initiatives and Programs for Adult Education in Nigeria

Despite the challenges, several initiatives and programs have promoted adult education in Nigeria. For example, the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) offers distance learning programs for adult learners seeking a flexible and accessible education. This innovation allows individuals to balance their personal and professional obligations while pursuing higher education.

Furthermore, government organizations like the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) offer vocational training and skill acquisition programs to equip adults with practical skills to enhance the possibilities for entrepreneurship.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are also a major source of support for adult education in Nigeria. Organizations like the International Institute for Literacy, Research, and Innovation (IILRI) and the Adult and Non-formal Education Practitioners Association of Nigeria (ANEPAN) collaborate with local groups and governmental institutions to support adult education and push for legislative changes.

Benefits of Adult Education in Nigeria

There are several benefits to adult education in Nigeria that go beyond the personal development of the learners. 

  • When adults acquire new skills and knowledge, they become more employable, increasing productivity and economic growth. 
  • Adult education programs focusing on entrepreneurship and vocational training enable people to launch their firms, which fosters job creation and lowers poverty.
  • Additionally, adult education promotes social inclusion and equality by giving marginalised people the chance to further their education and, in turn, improve their social standing. 
  • Adult education in Nigeria also promotes community development by equipping individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to address regional issues and support sustainable development.


Because of its ability to allow adults to learn new skills, expand their knowledge, and improve their general well-being, adult education is of great importance to Nigeria’s educational system.

Despite the challenges, initiatives and programs have been implemented to promote its growth and prevent further collapses. Nevertheless, to ensure that the relevance, quality, and accessibility of adult education in Nigeria is guaranteed, the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and community-based organizations must continue collaborating and investing in adult education.

By doing so, Nigeria can harness the full potential of adult education to drive socio-economic development, empower individuals, and create a more inclusive and prosperous society.

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Edited by Halimat Chisom

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1 comment

Avatar of Adenigbagbe Taiwo
Adenigbagbe Taiwo November 10, 2023 - 7:26 am

Very insightful 👏🏽


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