Variously referred to as "user education," "library skills," "library instruction," "bibliographic instruction," "evidence-based learning," "problem-based learning," etc., information literacy skills open the gateway of information to students and all information seekers and users across disciplines. It is a way of exposing users to the world of knowledge. It helps students know when information is required, how to locate, evaluate, organize, and effectively create, use, and communicate it. It is a way of nurturing and sustaining lifelong learning.
In Africa, information literacy has not been accorded its position in the higher education curriculum (Ojedokun 2005). In Nigeria the supervisory organ for universities, the National Universities Commission (NUC), makes it mandatory for all universities in Nigeria to include library literacy course in their curriculum (Noah, 2004). It is unfortunate that as good and lofty as the NUC directive is, only few universities have paid serious attention to it and offer it as a credit-earning course. While many universities offer information literacy as a non-credit-earning course, others have library orientation. Some universities cluster it with other General Studies courses, and in the few universities that offer it as a credit-earning course, the unit and status of the course is not enough to achieve the desired results. While it is required in some universities, it is an elective in others. The time and space allotted to the course is not sufficient for students to grasp the salient points.
In many universities that offer the course for credit, the emphasis is on library and reading skills with utter neglect of computer and technology literacy. For example, the objective of the Lagos State University GNS 101: Use of Library explicitly emphasizes library skills in its objectives:
* To inculcate in the students library skills for pursuing independent acquisition of knowledge and learning; and,
* To help them (students) develop awareness and appreciation of the potentialities of the library in support of their academic career (Noah, 2004).
The situation is not peculiar to Nigerian universities; it also affects other universities in Africa. The report of the survey of information-seeking habits of graduate students of the University of Ghana by Badu (1991) revealed that there is a low level of understanding of the library and little use of bibliographic tools. He concludes that the course content and duration of the programme and the lack of knowledge of the concepts and the low use of library resources by students show that the programme as it is presently pursued is a waste of time. He recommends that the user education programme be integrated with official school curriculum.
Writing on his experience at South African universities, Dulle, (2004) reveals that most universities in Africa practice mainly user education and library orientation, most of which lack the capacity to produce information users who exhibit adequate information literacy attributes.
Reporting the adoption of information literacy as credit-earning course at the University of Malaya, Chan (2003) enumerates the following problems with informal user education:
* the programmes were not accorded any official status and this did not receive the support of students or academic staff;
* Students were not given any hands-on experience, meaning that there was no formal assessment of the effectiveness of the programmes;
* The programmes were too short to be really effective.
* As most students had no or very limited experience with library use and resource-based learning, they did not think it worthwhile to expend time and efforts to learn to use the library
From the foregoing it is clear that there are information literacy practices among African universities but emphasis is on library literacy...