The country of Nigeria has the highest population of out-of-school children in the world. The country is home to an estimated 30 million primary school aged children, among whom 34 percent of girls and 29 percent of boys are out of school.

The Nigerian education system, aided by many years of effort, still remains weak. Literacy rates are very low among Nigerians above the age of 15, at 69.2 percent for boys and 49.7 percent for girls. In an effort to aid the problem, U.S. nonprofit FHI 360 is implementing a program dubbed the Reading and Numeracy Activity (RANA).

FHI 360 is a dedicated nonprofit human development organization focused on locally driven solutions for human development. FHI 360 with collaboration from Nigeria’s Ministry of Education is implementing a Reading and Numeracy Activity pilot project in an effort to expand the project nationally.

The aim of the project is to improve the quality of literacy and numeracy instruction for girls and boys in primary grades one to three. In the pilot stage, approximately 200 schools will be instructed using the RANA system. The pilot stage will be spanning two states, Katsina and Zamfara. In those two states, the dominant mother tongue is Hausa, and RANA has provided teaching and learning materials in Hausa for 800 teachers and 51,000 students. The Hausa materials provided by the pilot program include a step-by-step teacher guide and student workbooks.

The Reading and Numeracy Activity system is still in the pilot phase and it may take years to analyze the data, but students, teachers and parents are already feeling the effects of the program. A parent involved in the program told the advocacy organization ONE: “The RANA lessons have made him more hardworking and love school. I will support his education to any level within my means. I am very grateful to RANA for giving school a new meaning.”

Yosef Mahmoud

Photo: Flickr

Literacy Rates in Northern NigeriaReading 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