How Nigeria can promote child literacy in five years – UNICEF, USAID

THE United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have presented models for boosting child literacy and numeracy in Nigeria.

 The agencies said if adopted, the models would bring a turnaround to high illiteracy and innumeracy among children in the country, especially in the North, within five years.

Addressing participants at the presentation of the results of trials they conducted on their joint initiative on primary education – Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) – in Abuja on Wednesday, April 19, the organisations said the intervention proved effective in all states where they were piloted.

The intervention comes in various forms and aims to promote FLN models and lessons learnt from implementing it in Northern Nigeria in the past five years.

According to the agencies, three out of four children in basic schools cannot read and understand or solve simple Math problems.

In a bid to address the problems, the agencies developed Reading and Numeracy Activity (RANA), Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL), Leveraging Education Assistance Resources in Nigeria (LEARN) to Read Project and Haske (a programme designed to integrate Quranic schools into the conventional educational system) as different options and strategies for reducing children’s illiteracy and innumeracy.

 Addressing journalists at a seminar to present the programmes’ results, and discuss their scale-up, Chief Education, UNICEF Nigeria, Saadhna Panday-Soobrayan, said the inability of most children in the country to read and understand or do simple Math was a major problem the country must address as it seeks to develop with the rest of the world.

“To solve this crisis, we’ve tested various interventions over the past five years. To solve this learning crisis, we’ve identified a couple of things that are involved. We’ve got to train our teachers. We need to have the right materials available. Teachers must know how to teach well, and the community must value the teachers.

“We’ve subjected these pilots to independent assessment and evaluation. They are effective in improving literacy and numeracy. What we are doing at the seminar today is presenting those findings. 

“We’re having a conversation with government, civil society, development partners, and the media to push out that evidence and say we have it in our hands. Now the top of the next five years is to scale the successful interventions across Nigeria.”

She expressed optimism that the country would see a massive improvement in literacy and numeracy levels in the next five years if the government scaled the initiatives. 

In her remarks, the Director of Basic Education, Federal Ministry of Education, Dr Mrs Folake Olatunji-David, said Nigeria was a signatory to global best practices on education. 

She said the country was already domesticating best practices promoted by the FLN. 

“The issue of learning crisis for learning outcome is not just in the northern part, but because it is at a larger scale in the North. It is predominant in all parts of the country. We appreciate what is being done here. The language policy that is domiciled, because most of these projects are done in the language of the immediate environment. To replicate them in other parts, we need to have them in language children in all parts of the country will understand. 

“The Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Education, is putting in place a reviewed National Policy on Mother Tongue for Use in Primary School.”

She said the policy would help improve education nationwide, especially in the North.

She explained that the country was looking at having a policy framework and implementation guidelines to support FLN practices and approaches in the country.

She averred that the FLN was important to the nation’s education sector.

The ICIR reports that UNICEF and USAID presented grim statistics on primary education in the country while piloting the programmes.

Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's the ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022. Contact him via email @

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