Reading is an essential skill in every aspect of life, but in northern Nigeria, illiteracy is a major problem. The uneven development in the country has created an education gap between the north and the south. “Only about 14 percent of children in the northwest region can read a complete sentence, while that number jumps to almost 63 percent in the southwest,” per research conducted in a 2010 Nigeria Education Data Survey. By the time many students reach third grade, they still cannot read anything, no matter the language.
Northern Nigeria also lacks well-trained teachers and teaching materials, making it difficult to improve this problem. There is little parent involvement in schools, and the attendance at schools in the north each day is much lower than schools in the south.
The Nigeria Reading and Numeracy Activity (RANA) is working to change that. Their goal is to improve the literacy rates in northern Nigeria by providing long-term and far-reaching support for 200 schools.
RANA is working with schools to teach students to read in Hausa, a commonly spoken language in the northwest area of Nigeria. In its first year, 2016, RANA helped more than 500 teachers learn how to teach “an evidence-based reading methodology for Hausa.” Teachers also had check-ups each month with RANA’s trainers and got local support from their communities to help them improve literacy rates in northern Nigeria.
There are four main goals that RANA is focused on: “Aims to break every barrier to education access and quality; Invests in every teacher; Measures every outcome; and Connects every classroom.” Using Hausa as the primary teaching language makes it much easier for parents to engage, and teachers receive classroom materials written in Hausa to promote learning. Teachers can see their impact on students through the data that RANA collects, and they can share that success with other teachers through WhatsApp.
Local leaders, royalty and those in charge of the education system in northern Nigeria were encouraged to get involved in the movement as well. RANA’s goal was to promote “an environment conducive to reading that extends beyond the schools in which the project is being implemented.” With the support and understanding of leaders and the local communities, the mission to improve literacy rates in northern Nigeria became easier to accomplish.
The impact and success of RANA’s work have led to similar projects springing up in the area. Parents are encouraging their children to learn to read in Hausa by using RANA materials, and one community has even been photocopying the materials for use in their own schools.
RANA’s program has proven that improved literacy rates are possible in northern Nigeria, especially once communities come together and pay attention to the needs of their current students.
– Mackenzie Fielder