By Boco Abdul
Bauchi, Nigeria—More than 200 elected officials and community leaders kicked off the distribution of 1 million textbooks developed by the Northern Education Initiative Plus to children in Bauchi state.
More than 1,750 primary schools and 400 non-formal learning centers received the books as part of project by the Nigerian government and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The event also launched a program on improve the early grade teaching methodology for 6,000 teachers.
Bauchi Gov. Mohammed Abubakar told attendees: “Our goal is to use education to reduce poverty, illiteracy and improve access to information translating all these to tools for peaceful co-existence and harmonious relationships in our state.”
Bauchi state is making renewed investments towards the education sector. It recently accessed a N1billion fund from the federal government to improve basic education in the state. In 2016, the state allocated 20 percent of its annual budget to education.
Gov. Abdullahi commended the Northern Education Initiative Plus for improving the Ministry of Education, agencies and local government authorities to address barriers to school participation in the state.
“This project has given us the impetus to meet our goal of improving quality and standard of education,” Gov. Abdullahi said.
James Statman, who leads the Northern Education Initiative Plus program, highlighted the close collaboration of everyone involved in early grade reading program.
“We rely on Bauchi state to continue to provide the leadership and expertise to drive this project. We want children to learn to read so they stay longer in school translating to better lives for themselves,” Statman said.
Teacher Professional Development
As part of a multi-level training program in Bauchi state, 18 leading education experts called “Master Trainers” have trained 220 school managers as “Trainers-of-Teachers,” who in turn are now preparing and supporting teachers to implement the early grade reading program in schools.
In the non-formal learning centers, 10 Master Trainers have trained 80 Mentor Facilitators to coach and mentor 400 learning facilitators to deliver a learner-friendly curriculum to children.
Teacher professional development is a priority of the government of Bauchi state. Chairman of the Bauchi State Universal Basic Education Board, Prof. Yahya Yero, applauds the program’s focus on building the skills of teachers.
“No education system can rise above the quality of its teachers and this invariably affects the performance of its pupils and students. The Northern Education Initiative Plus investment in teachers is very timely,” said Yero.
Global approach to reading
The inability of children to read and write in their mother tongue is a global problem. Early Grade Reading Assessments conducted in Northern Nigeria in 2014 showed that in Bauchi 84 percent of children in third grade could not read a single word in Hausa.
The Northern Education Initiative Plus aims to address this challenge in Bauchi state with its early grade reading program by teaching children to read early while building their socio-emotional and cognitive skills.
Senior Reading Specialist of the Initiative, Joy du Plessis, emphasized the need for early grade reading.
“Learning to read at an early age is one of the great equalizers,” she said. “With good teachers and materials and support to parents, even those who are unable to read and write, all children have a better chance at being successful in school, not just children from well-off families who may have books at home and promote reading to their children.”
World-class teaching and learning materials
The Northern Education Initiative Plus developed Mu Karanta! (Let’s Read!) materials that are based on global best practices in teaching children to learn to read in the early grades.
The materials were developed by more than 100 international and local experts from Bauchi state’s university and College of Education, State Universal Basic Education Board, Federal Ministry of Education, Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, National Commission for Colleges of Education and globally recognized reading experts from the Initiative.
The Mu Karanta! materials have been edited by Nigeria’s best Hausa and English experts to ensure that Standard Hausa is used, language use is correct, and that the materials are embedded in the local culture and traditions. They reviewed and validated in Bauchi state by a wide range of stakeholders.
“They were also produced at a cost that is affordable for the state, without sacrificing quality,” said Plessis. “Working with relevant authorities and community structures, the Initiative is also helping to train parents on how they can support their child’s reading at home, get them to school every day and on time and support the school and community in promoting a reading culture.”
The five-year, Nigerian government-led Northern Education Initiative Plus is funded by the U.S Agency for International Development and aims to improve reading outcomes of more than 2 million primary grade learners in 6,868 schools and 11,129 non-formal learning centers.
The program is implemented by Creative Associates International. Partnering with Creative are three U.S.-based international organizations—Education Development Center (EDC), Florida State University (FSU), Overseas Strategic Consulting (OSC)—and four local organizations—Value Minds, Association for Education Development Options (AEDO), Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA) and the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN).
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