Professor Michael Omolewa is a pioneer of adult education and the leading education historian in his native Africa. He is the ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Nigeria to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). As a distinguished scholar, civil servant and diplomat his contributions impact local and national educational activities in Africa and throughout the world. As a policy maker, Omolewa has dedicated his life to adult education and the promotion of literacy for the under-served and even unacknowledged populations in the world.
As a renowned expert for literacy, Omolewa assisted UNESCO as one of five scholars in drafting the Working Paper for the United Nations Literacy Decade. He was at the Launch of the Decade in 2003 at the United Nations in New York whose efforts work to reduce high rates of illiteracy worldwide.
To promote cooperation between the villagers and the university community to enhance literacy, Omolewa founded the University Village Association in 1989 as a non-government organization registered in Nigeria using innovative approaches to adult learning. This unique approach to literacy promotion attracted the Honourable Mention for the UNESCO Research Prize of the UNESCO Institute for Education, and earned the UNESCO Honourable Mention literacy prize in 1999.
As the first director of the external studies program of the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, Omolewa opened opportunities to pursue a degree program to more than 1,000 adult learners. As the head of Adult Education at the University of Ibadan he promoted adult and continuing education and nationwide as chairman of the Committee of Deans of Education of Nigerian Universities. He connected Ibadan’s Department of Adult Education internationally with UNESCO, the British Council, the German Adult Education Association and the International Council for Adult Education. The achievements he initiated led to winning for his department the respected UNESCO International Reading Association Literacy Prize in 1989.
Omolewa has authored numerous books including Adult Education Practice in Nigeria in 1981 and many articles in leading adult education journals such as: Convergence, International Review of Education, Vierteljahresberichte: Probleme der Entwicklungslander, Adult Education and Development, and the Indian Journal of Adult Education. He has also been appointed a member of the editorial board of the Pedagogical Historical, the leading International Journal of the History of Education, the International Review on Education, the Journal of African-American History and the International Journal of Lifelong Learning.
The History of Education Society of Nigeria recently named Omolewa the Life Patron of the Society. Adama Ouane, director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning testified that “historians of education and adult education in particular will record his achievements and deep and lasting footprint. He was a front-runner, a witness and actor in all the turning points and paradigm shifts taking place in this area.”