The Northern Education Initiative Plus (NEI Plus) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has increased access to basic education to over 269,000 out-of-school children in Nigeria.
The five-year project, which was implemented in close partnership with the governments of Bauchi and Sokoto states, also improved reading outcomes for close to one million children in the states, according to USAID.
USAID, it was gathered, also worked with major local, state, federal, and international education bodies to help the over 269,000 children – half of whom are girls – access basic education.
The population of out-of-school children in Nigeria is about 10.5 million, according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
Children in northern Nigeria face the biggest challenges accessing education, with 69 percent of all out-of-school children living in northern states, and 60 percent of them are girls.
Similarly, a report published by Africa Health, Human and Social Development Information Service (Afri-Dev Info) in 2013 revealed that the northern region had the worst girl-child education, highest female illiteracy, highest girl-child marriage, highest adolescent pregnancy, and highest risk of maternal death and injury.
Some of the majorly affected states are Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, all in the country’s northeast, where the Boko Haram terrorists have held sway and wreaked havoc, with the kidnap of hundreds of schoolgirls.
There are several other factors keeping girls away from classrooms in Africa’s most populous country, particularly in its northern region, despite the country’s Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act, 2004.
Research findings show that children drop out of school due to displacement, cultural norms, safety concerns, and unaffordability of scholastic materials, including pens, pencils, schoolbags.
‘Learning must start with reading,” USAID Education Office Director Denise O’Toole said at the closing
‘Teaching children to read in a language they understand gives them a powerful tool for lifelong learning’, USAID Education Office Director, Denise O’Toole, said at the closing of the NEI Plus project.
‘This will contribute to developing a new generation of leaders equipped to help Nigeria meet the challenges ahead’.
Because of the critical role of reading in human development, USAID said it supported Nigeria through NEI Plus to develop and distribute more than nine million teaching and learning materials for early-grade reading to 2,300 schools and 5,600 non-formal learning centres across both Bauchi and Sokoto.
‘I commend all these laudable achievements and reiterate that the federal government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Education, will continue to partner with USAID to provide basic education services that promote self-reliance’, Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, said.
USAID has also helped train over 9,600 teachers in early-grade reading and created a pool of Nigerian reading experts with capacity to train more teachers.
‘Under the activity, 200 new community reading centres and 800 reading corners opened in the two states’, the U.S. development agency said in a statement.
USAID, it was gathered, also recently assisted Nigeria to develop a National Reading Framework that sets common goals for reading standards and measurements to improve reading instruction.
Photo source: USAID