USAID’s Northern Education Initiative Plus to reach about 500,000 children in 2017

By Boco Abdul

Abuja, Nigeria– More than 150 education experts from government, international development organizations and US based partners of the Northern Education Initiative Plus gathered in Nigeria to outline a second-year work plan supporting Bauchi and Sokoto states to provide access to quality education to about 500,000 school-aged children.

The Initiative organized three planning workshops from August 23 to September 7, 2016 in Bauchi, Sokoto and Abuja to reflect on its performance in the first year and harmonize activities across its various components of early grade reading, access, community mobilization, systems strengthening, monitoring and evaluation, communications and Information and Communications Technology linking them to state-related activities in education.

Key state-based government partners- State Universal Basic Education Board, State Ministry of Education and State Agency for Mass Education and those at federal level- Federal Ministry of Education, Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, National Commission for Colleges of Education and Universal Basic Education Commission participated and made valuable contributions during the work planning workshops.

Elected officials and community leaders formally launched the Northern Education Initiative Plus in Bauchi and Sokoto states in February, 2016 committing to its goals of providing education opportunities and improving the reading skills for more than 2 million children and youth. Since then, the project has worked closely with state, local governments and civil society organizations to lay a solid foundation for its interventions.

“We are very pleased with the work of the Initiative. This is a project that is well designed and is dealing with the most critical components of education- early grade reading, building capacity of teachers and creating more opportunities for children to access education. We will continue to support you in the best way we can,” said Sokoto state Commissioner of Basic and Secondary Education Dr. Jabbi Kilgori.

Making financial commitments

In the first year, states demonstrated their ability to sustain the project by including the training of teachers on early grade reading program in its teacher professional development action plan.

Moving into the second year, USAID Nigeria’s Education Program Manager, Olawale Samuel urged the project to continue to device creative ways to encourage Bauchi and Sokoto states to sustain its initiatives in spite of the economic recession in Nigeria.

“These are exciting times in Nigeria and particularly at the state level, we have an opportunity to make a difference. States will depend more on you to make things happen. The Initiative remains relevant to changing processes in education in the states,” said Samuel.

Working together

The project also collaborated with other international development partners working in Bauchi and Sokoto states on a number of programmatic areas. In the second-year work planning workshop, partners identified more opportunities for collaboration.

“More girls need to be in school. We could work together to identify and engage female professionals to serve as role models and mentors for girls,” said Education Advisor for Action Aid in Sokoto state, Laban Onisimus.

Some of the local governments in the states where the project intervenes are also supported by other international development partners like the UNICEF. In those areas of convergence, “there is need to collaborate to avoid duplication of efforts and waste of resources,” said UNICEF Education Specialist, Safiya Abdullahi.

Early Success

Although still in its first year, the Northern Education Initiative Plus has achieved critical milestones setting a high standard for interventions in the second year. They include:

  • Developed early grade reading materials for first to third grades in Hausa and transition to English that was approved by the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council and validated by state partners
  • Developed teaching and learning materials on literacy, numeracy and life skills for non-formal learning centers
  • Conducted baseline assessments- Early Grade Reading Assessment and Community Education Conflict Analysis to inform interventions in schools and non-formal learning centers
  • Conducted policy mapping for the education sector in Bauchi and Sokoto states to determine what policies need to be formulated or strengthened to support access to quality basic education and reading
  • Developed communications and advocacy and community mobilization strategies to inform the best approach to mobilizing communities to support education efforts
  • Setup and tested various ICT tools for use to strengthen all project components including assessment, teacher support and community campaigns

Looking ahead

In the second year, the Northern Education Initiative Plus seeks to reach 426,094 children in first to third grades, along with 63,000 out-of-school children and youth attending 1,400 non-formal learning centers, adolescent girls learning centers and youth learning centers.

The Initiative will produce and distribute over 2 million teaching and learning materials to teachers and learning facilitators and children in schools and non-formal learning centers.

“We expect that before the five-year mark of the project, supported-states will have assumed total ownership of its objectives so more children will be on the way to building a brighter future for their communities,” said the Representative from the Federal Ministry of Education, Chinyere Ocheze at the Abuja work planning workshop.

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