Roughly 40 percent of adults in Nigeria and 27 percent of youth are illiterate. That’s according to a 2015 UNESCO study. Experts fear those numbers will rise if the country doesn’t address the severe lack of functional public libraries.

Advocates say libraries are an “equal opportunity leveler” and play an important role in the promotion of reading habits, but the current condition of the Nigeria’s library system does not encourage a reading culture. According to Joseph Edionwele, a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, the problems include a  lack of leadership, underfunding, and poor maintenance, all of which have caused “reading materials in the libraries to be outdated and the buildings themselves dilapidated”. He believes the services provided, namely access to expensive books and other educational needs, are desperately needed by low income families. Edionwele is now pushing for  the modernisation of the existing National Library and the establishment of new offices in cities across the country in hopes of reviving the system.

And it appears fellow lawmakers are listening. Last month, the Speaker of the House ordered the Committee on Basic Education and Services to work with the Federal Ministry of Education on finding a solutions and report back to the House within 8 weeks. What they will come back with is unclear, but it will most likely include Edionwele’s hope for modernisation. In addition, this month Nigeria’s National Library announced it is working with Norway to digitise its book collection.

On this episode of The Stream, we discuss this community pitched issue. We’ll examine the barriers that are preventing libraries, literacy and learning in Nigeria and what the government and other organisations are doing to fix the problem.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Funmi Ilori 
Founder, iRead Network Africa

Emmanuel Alabi @NuelSpeaks
Secondary school geography teacher

Nkem Osuigwe @librarian_nkem 
Director, Anambra State Library Board

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.