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Making a lasting impact on early grade reading

May 03, 2021

Idanre, Nigeria

When FHI 360's Reading and Numeracy Activity (RANA) began in 2015, it was a small, early grade reading pilot in 200 schools in Nigeria. When it closed in December 2020, it had directly reached 3,390 formal and nonformal schools and collaborated with government and development partners at another 29,170 schools. Both of RANA’s original pilot states, Katsina and Zamfara, formally adopted policy guidelines to continue state commitments to early grade reading. RANA’s core principles for sustainable interventions made the depth and breadth of the project possible.

Strategic communication: Throughout its lifespan, RANA built understanding with government stakeholders at the local, state and federal levels. Project staff developed professional learning briefs to convey technical concepts, held working group and technical review meetings for stakeholder input and conducted study tours for government officials to see project classrooms and activities. By giving feedback in both Hausa and English language, stakeholders contributed to the project's development.

Cultural sensitivity: RANA staff worked with professors, trainers, language specialists and educators to adapt an instructional package for reading that reflected both international best practices and the local context, including proverbs, folktales, famous figures from Nigerian history and a syllabic approach based on the unique linguistic characteristics of the Hausa language. By creating a product and approach that fit in well with local needs, RANA promoted local ownership and sustainability.

Incentives: RANA staff worked with Nigerian college education programs to create an in-service teacher certification to recognize improved competencies using the RANA approach. The certification was formally adopted in Katsina and Zamfara. RANA worked with local government education authorities to improve strategies for mentoring and coaching, relying on data from tablet-based observations to inform coaching sessions. Tablet-based monitoring also provided a mechanism for the local government education authorities to account for when and where coaches had completed their visits. The system was so popular that the Zamfara state government adopted tablet-based monitoring across the state, procuring their own server and tablets and training their personnel.

Community engagement: Working with the Federation of Muslim Women of Nigeria (FOMWAN), RANA conducted community events to raise awareness of the project and the importance of reading. Project staff appointed traditional leaders as reading ambassadors to galvanize local support for Hausa literacy, set up community reading hubs as public spaces for reading and supported mothers’ groups to promote girls’ school attendance. To build sustainability, RANA worked with state departments of social mobilisation to create a public training manual on community reading promotion strategies.

Funded by the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office through UNICEF, RANA built strong trust and understanding among stakeholders, inspiring governments and communities to deploy resources and expand the initiatives in more schools.

Photo credit: Fela Sanu/EyeEm/Getty Images