Celebrating literacy for first and second graders in Nigeria
It’s a hot, dry morning in Jigawa state in northern Nigeria. Teachers and learners are preparing for end-of-year examinations. But before students sit down to take their exams, they will participate in a community learning festival, celebrating the accomplishments they’ve made in grades one and two.
Community learning festivals are one way to address Nigeria’s national learning crisis. One in two children between the ages of 6 and 16 in Nigeria cannot read, and 10.5 million children — over half of them girls — are not in school.
The Partnership for Learning for All in Nigeria (PLANE) project makes the community learning festivals possible. PLANE is an initiative led by DAI, with support from FHI 360, and funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). It seeks to improve the delivery of basic education — and literacy and numeracy outcomes — for children across Nigeria’s Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa states.
PLANE works with local education partners to develop learning materials and teacher guides that reflect international standards, align with Nigeria’s national primary curriculum and are tailored to the local context and language. Teacher training is delivered using a cascade model, in which trainers and school support officers build teachers’ skills in their schools and communities.
In 2022, the first year of program implementation, PLANE worked with government partners to support over 2,500 schools with classroom materials and teacher training, reaching nearly half a million children. At the close of the school year in July 2023, PLANE staff worked with local leaders and community members to host learning festivals, giving students the chance to show their communities what they’d learned.
At the community learning festival in Dutse, the capital of Jigawa state, young learners Aisha and Umar beamed with pride as they confidently read aloud in front of hundreds of onlookers, gathered to celebrate the end of their second-grade year.
Aisha is a 9-year-old girl with big dreams. She already knows she wants to become a human rights lawyer, and she loves learning, specifically English and literacy, because she knows it will help her get there.
“In school, my teachers help me understand and allow me to ask questions,” says Aisha. “I like my literacy class because it is challenging, but I get to work in groups with my friends.”
With PLANE materials, students participate each day in learner-centered activities ranging from small group work and class demonstrations to partner learning and games involving the whole class. Such active participation creates a space where meaningful learning can take place.
Aisha’s teacher shares that lessons run smoothly because the materials are easy to follow. She credits the PLANE program with helping her students pick up material more quickly than they have in the past, noting that the “kids are confident to get up in front of Chairmen during a competition because they can read well thanks to [PLANE] materials.”
Umar is just as enthusiastic and confident as Aisha. When asked how he could feel so prepared for a spontaneous read-aloud at the festival, Umar smiles and says that he loves reading and competition. His teacher notes his active participation in literacy lessons and says that he often comes early to class because of his eagerness to learn.
“I like coming to school because I always get to learn to read and write in Hausa,” says Umar, referring to the local language.
PLANE has only just taken off. As the project embarks on its second year, school staff and their communities are eager to support students as they continue through primary school, laying the foundation for a bright future ahead.