FHI360: Salahudeen discovers his love for reading

 Salahudeen reading 

Salahudeen reading 

Katsina, Nigeria: It is a typical school day in Take-Tsimi, a village in northern Nigeria. In Take-Tsimi primary school, a student named Salahudeen is called upon to read aloud in class. He stands up and does so with confidence, serving as a role model to the other children in his class. Over the last school year, Salahudeen has been sharpening his reading skills through participation in the Reading and Numeracy Activity (RANA).

RANA is a three-year pilot project on Hausa language reading and numeracy, implemented by FHI 360 as part of UNICEF’s Girls Education Project Phase 3 (GEP3) with funding support from the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID). RANA is implemented in collaboration with the governments of Katsina and Zamfara states, and it aims to improve literacy and numeracy for girls and boys in primary grades 1-3 by assisting approximately 200 formal schools and Integrated Qura’nic Schools.

A local education official noticed Salahudeen’s exceptional reading performance during a routine RANA monitoring visit. Salahudeen explained, “I have always admired people when I see them reading. When our teacher started teaching us RANA lessons, I paid attention so that I can also read.”

In addition to dedicating himself to his RANA classes, Salahudeen began saving portions of his lunch allowance so that he could buy his own reading material. He is now the proud owner of six books. Although his father attested that Salahudeen had always been a good student, he also believed that the RANA program enhanced Salahudeen’s interest in reading. “The RANA lessons have made Salahudeen more hardworking and to love school,” his father said. “I will support his education to any level within my means. I am very grateful to RANA for giving school a new meaning.”

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 Salahudeen reading in class

Salahudeen reading in class

URC: "Enabling Writers Workshop" is bridging the book gap

New books, written and illustrated for first and second graders in their native Hausa language, will soon reach thousands of Nigerian school children and positively impact their need to learn how to read. The 200 books were created by some 37 local writers, trained to develop high-quality books using Bloom book-producing software, program through the Enabling Writers Workshop Program (EW), an innovative initiative funded by the All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) partners – the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), World Vision, and the Australian government – and implemented by University Research Company's Reading within Reach (REACH) project.  

According to 2017 statistics from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 387 million primary school-age children worldwide are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading, even though two-thirds of them attend school.  One key factor is the lack of appropriate reading materials in a language the children can understand.  The REACH EW program demonstrates a low-cost sustainable solution to this challenge.  Currently implemented in six countries - Nigeria, Haiti, Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nepal - more than 2,000 titles have been created in eight languages. Work is currently under way to create an additional 1,400 titles in seven languages.

EW partner American University of Nigeria is working in the states of Bauchi and Sokoto to promote the Hausa book titles. EW Pedagogy Lead, Dr. Grace Malgwi, explained that “the plan is for the over 4000 public primary schools in these two states to be the first beneficiaries of the printed version of the books. Additionally, with internet access and the availability of computers and tablets growing, another 2000 public schools where Hausa is a home language might receive the books in a digital form.”

  Dr. Grace Malgwi, EW Pedagogy Lead at American University Nigeria, conducting a training session on the Bloom book producing software

Dr. Grace Malgwi, EW Pedagogy Lead at American University Nigeria, conducting a training session on the Bloom book producing software

Quality assurance processes are applied in every stage of book creation, including through a rigorous field testing process in schools.  Before writing, the EW team works with national ministry of education (MoE) to establish letter scope and sequence and book levelling criteria reflecting the national reading curriculum.  Draft EW books are then subjected to multiple content reviews including for context relevance, story sequence and illustrations, gender inclusiveness, and appropriate representation of individuals with disabilities.  Teachers and students then provide feedback on the appropriateness of books for the target group and instructional use.   

Primary school teacher Auwal Nasir says students and teachers at his Yakubu Muazu Model School in Sokoto are excited about the new books’ simple, interesting and level-appropriate language and text. “The books are bridging the gap, and the pupils can read and enjoy the books in and out of class,” he said, adding that teachers not involved in the field testing process of the book production have borrowed the books from him to read with their classes.

Books created through the Enabling Writers program will be open-licensed for sharing, electronic use and large-scale printing and uploaded to the Global Digital Library (an initiative of Global Book Alliance with Norwegian Development Agency), the Bloom library and other digital library platforms.  Educators and families around the world will be able to access, use or translate the books to their own language.  

The Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) are working to officially adopt the EW books.  Dr. Garba Gandu of NERDC says EW received “a warm reception and positive recognition. It is very relevant and invaluable to the current reading initiatives in Nigeria.”  There are budgetary, distribution and curriculum issues to iron out, but Dr. Gandu believes the “urgent need to get [the books] into the school system should not be downplayed. This can be hastened and achieved in under two to three months by special intervention.”                                                        

The Enabling Writers initiative has potential to provide access to large numbers of high-quality books in underserved mother languages throughout the world. Watch for further project updates on the Global Reading Network website.

J&A: Thanks to remedial classes, fewer students are held back in Mali

U.S. assistance to Mali supports the country’s implementation of the 2015 Accord for Peace and Reconciliation. The agreement between the Government of Mali and groups in northern Mali aims to bring stability to the country's vast northern desert, which has experienced several uprisings from separatists groups since the 1960s and has more recently been a sanctuary for armed fighters linked to al-Qaeda. USAID initiated the three-year Education Emergency Support Activity (EESA), implemented by CAMRIS International and its implementing partners Juárez & Associates (J&A), Human Network International (HNI), and COBO Construction, with the purpose of supporting the Government of Mali to restore access to basic education to 80,000 students and to strengthen the educational system in areas affected by conflict and crisis.

The project is being implemented in 250 project schools and communities in five conflict-affected regions of Mali: Ségou, Mopti, Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. The overarching project objectives include: 1) Increased availability of safe and accessible primary schooling; 2) Improved delivery of conflict and gender-sensitive basic educational services, and 3) Institutional capacity to deliver educational services in conflict-affected environment strengthened.

J&A completed a Gender Analysis in 2016 and has been working with CAMRIS International to ensure gender is mainstreamed in project design, planning, implementation, messaging and monitoring and evaluation. J&A remains focused on decreasing key barriers for girls’ access to education and improving girls’ safety at schools and in communities. J&A is providing technical assistance in improving conflict- and gender-sensitive learning and teaching materials, assessing and strengthening remedial instruction programs, and improving conflict- and gender-sensitive instruction and classroom management techniques to promote peace building, resilience, conflict resolution, inclusion, and equity.

A teacher reassured by the success of this school year.

Mohamed for J&A Success Story.png

Mohamed Abdoulaye is a first-grade teacher at the school of Berrah, located in the commune of Soni Aliber in Gao. A native of the area, he believes in the importance of education for the children of his community. Moreover, he views the first grade is a critical step in the education system, since it builds a strong foundation that allows students to thrive in subsequent years.

Although the security situation has improved in some localities, untimely teacher strikes have resulted in a significant 30% delay in the progress of the school curriculum for the 2016-2017 school year. In response to concerns from the Malian government, USAID’s EESA project has launched a campaign of remedial courses in reading, writing and mathematics for first and second grade students. From March to June 2017, these courses were offered in all five of the project’s target regions, and were based on the official curriculum. A total of 4,570 students benefitted from this activity. J&A visited the 30 project intervention schools across the five regions to assess student level in reading, writing and mathematics in first and second grade; provide capacity-building to teachers on student assessment; and improve the available tools to collect, monitor and assess the impact of the activity within the project intervention schools.

Concerned about the fate of his pupils, Mohamed welcomed this initiative: “Thanks to the remedial courses, the majority of my students will graduate to the next level.” To his pleasant surprise, he was able to recommend 72% of his students for graduation, far higher that the initial estimate of 45% made before the remedial courses.

Arber Maiga, the parent of one of Mr. Abdoulaye’s students, states: “We were afraid that our children would miss this school year, but thanks to the remedial courses, not only have they caught up to the official curriculum, but they are equipped to thrive in the upper classes.”

USAID continues to honor its commitment to the government of Mali to support the education system through the EESA project, and to address the challenges in the regions affected by conflict, to give all children the opportunity to learn.

Visit the J&A website for more info