Jonathan C. Onyishi

The following paper presents a summary and discussion of the findings of a study conducted in various communities of Nsukka in Enugu State, Nigeria. Its purpose was to investigate how poverty can be eradicated through women’s participation in adult and non-formal education (ADE/NFE). The paper recognises that the Literacy Education Programme, vocational education (acquisition of skills), agriculture and health extension services, and loan schemes, are major components of ADE/NFE that will help to eradicate poverty in the area of study. It further regards the creation of learning centres and effective full participation by women in the Adult Education Programme as necessary factors. Data was analysed from two sources, a structured questionnaire and oral interviews. Jonathan C. Onyishi is employed in the Department of Veterinary Parasitology and Entomology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Nigeria in Nsukka.

Eradication of Poverty through Women’s Participation in Adult and Non-formal Education: A Study of Nsukka in Enugu State of Nigeria 

Adult and non-formal education refer to efforts at improving the provision and implementation of development programmes which have a basic education or training component. Such programme provision usually takes place outside the formal education system. When the educational process is non-formal, it means that the rigid forms of traditional schooling such as regimented curricula, classroom arrangements and set syllabus are not strictly maintained. The educational programme is more flexible and diverse, and is adapted to the particular needs and circumstances of learners.

Adult and non-formal education are indisputably lifelong education in developing countries where most of the populace are illiterates, especially in rural communities. Womenfolk form the majority of this level of illiteracy. Lifelong education is a comprehensive concept which includes formal, non-formal and informal learning extended throughout the life span of an individual to attain the fullest possible development in personal, social and professional life. The informal aspect is experienced by all and influenced by parental, social, economic, political, socio-cultural and educational background. The National Policy on Education (1981) specified that adult and non-formal education consist of functional literacy, continuing, vocational, aesthetic, cultural and civic education for youths and adults outside the formal system. Non-formal education therefore proclaimed strategies calling for a stronger, more integrated and more community-based approach to rural development to meet the basic needs of the poor.

There is a need for centres for Adult and Non-formal education to be established in all communities, especially vocational education centres where women and young drop-outs should learn various skills which include tailoring, hair-dressing, weaving, soap making, pomade making, bakery, bag making etc. Other community programmes of instruction in health, nutrition and family planning, and co-operatives, are important in poverty eradication and therefore should be more effective and implemented.

The problem is that government has not been very responsive in implementing these important programmes in the area of study and the state in general. Women, therefore, depend on not quite sustainable farming, petty trading and paid jobs for a living. The young ones go out hawking along road sides, market places, motor-parks and other public places. As a result, they continue to remain in abject poverty. The young ones jump into prostitution and other immoral acts which are unhealthy to our national development.

Findings of a study which assessed the progress made so far in Enugu State of Nigeria in the implementation of the Action Plan to eradicate illiteracy show that the implementation of the Action Plan in the state is yet to mature. There are no literacy training centres for grass-root literacy workers. Material development and production, sponsored by the government, are inadequate. Existing agencies such as the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Mass Mobilization for Social and Economic Reconstruction (MAMSER), Better Life for Rural Women/Family Support for Women are not involved in literacy programmes. Publicity and mobilization are not encouraged and literacy and numeracy materials are very scarce. The writer advocates the system of “Each One Teach One” to educate the women folk at the grass-roots, which means that those educated should teach the illiterate.

Participation is vital and of paramount importance in any adult and non-formal education programme. Women should be encouraged to participate fully in the programmes. If this noble objective of poverty eradication is to be achieved, women learners should not only participate, but should learn to implement and practise the skills they learn often. For any successful programme, full participation by the target group is important. Full participation of women in adult and non-formal education could be encouraged and actualized through awareness creation and motivation, which involves funding and remuneration. Also monitoring and evaluation should be effective. The time and schedule of lessons should enhance women’s participation in the literacy programme. Past experiences reveal that women fail to participate in the adult and non-formal education programme due to conflicts between their domestic duties and the programme. Traditional rulers and the Town Union should assist in waiving some cultural norms which may inhibit women’s participation in adult and non-formal education programmes.


Various questions were provided in the questionnaire distributed to respondents. They were requested to tick YES or NO as the answers selected. The findings in this study are as follows:

a) Receive loans from Bank: This is to know whether women receive loans from the bank for their business or not. 150 (100 %) of the respondents answered No, signifying that women do not receive loans from banks. 

b) Collect loans from Women’s Associations: The findings show that women collect loans from Women’s Associations, which they formed for self-help. 130 (86.7%) answered YES, while 20 (13.3 %) responded NO. 

c) Generate funds from monthly contributions: It was found that women generate funds from monthly contributions which they organise for self-help. 145 (96.7%) of the respondents indicated YES. 110 representing 73.3 % revealed that loans are collected from individuals, while 40 (26.7%) answered NO. 

d) Participation in adult and non-formal education: The findings reveal that the majority of the women participate fully in the ADE/NFE programme with 130 (86.7%) answering YES. 

e) Achievement of their learning purposes: 130 representing 86.8% indicated YES, signifying that they achieve their learning purpose, only a small number 20 (13.3 %) responded NO, signifying that they do not achieve their learning purpose. 

f) Reasons for not participating. Various questions were posed to respondents as follows: . Centre not available -120 (80.0%) indicated that centres were available, while 20 (13.3%) answered No. . Centre very far from home -150 (100%) revealed that centres were not very far from home. 

g) Programme has no purpose – The findings show that the ADE/NFE programme achieves its purpose. 148 (96.7%) of the respondents answered NO, which indicated that the programme had a purpose, while only 2 (1.3%) answered YES. 

h) Teachers are not available -145 (96.7%) of the total respondents revealed by answering YES that teachers are not available.

Only an insignificant number of 5 (3.3 %) indicated that teachers were available. On types of skill available and taught in the centres, various skills were listed for the respondents to select.

The findings revealed that weaving skill is being taught in the centres. This had 150 representing 100 % respondents answering YES. 145 (96.7%) responded YES showing that sewing skill was included in skills at the centres. Only 5 (3.3%) indicated NO. Hair-dressing: 150 (100%) indicated that hair dressing was taught at the centres. Soap-making: 150 representing 100% of the respondents indicated YES showing that they learn soap-making. Bag-making: 135 (90.0%) replied YES, confirming that soap-making is one of the skills taught in the centres. Only an insignificant number of 15 (10.0%) responded No. Pomade making: The findings show that pomade making is learned in some of the centres but not taught in some, 50% respectively. Bakery: 113 (75.3 %) of the total respondents answered YES, which signifies that bakery is among the skills taught in the centres, 37 representing 24.7% responded No, showing that it is not taught in their centres.


This paper summarises the findings of a study on how poverty can be eradicated through women’s participation in adult and non-formal education in Nigeria.

From the findings, it shows that women participate in ADE/NFE programmes. The programme, apart from literacy education, runs various skills which could sustain an individual and make her life comfortable. However, this paper found out that women after learning these skills, like hair-dressing, sewing, soap-making etc., could not set up on their own due to lack of finance, and inability to obtain loans either from government or from banks. It is suggested that banks should try as much as possible to encourage this group of people by granting them soft loans to establish their own business. When these acquired skills are used reasonably for establishing business enterprises, people become self-employed and can give employment to others. More over, government should take ADE/NFE programmes very seriously and fund them adequately,

More learning centres should be established especially in rural communities, where the majority of illiterates reside. The author invites Government, NGO, (Non-governmental organisations) and philanthropic individuals to encourage ADE/FE programmes in rural communities, and similarly to motivate participants to discourage school drop-out.

Poverty eradication can only be real, if non-formal education programmes are seriously taken care of and effectively implemented by government.

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