Nigeria: Virtual reading competition keeps kids engaged

by Christiana Ogbe, Adebisi Adetunji and Janey Fugate

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s Northern Education Initiative Plus hosted a virtual reading and writing competition for kids in Nigeria’s Bauchi and Sokoto states. In the video above, two of the winners share their entries and their hopes for the future.

Over 250 students submitted recordings of themselves reading essays they wrote, responding to prompts about what they want to be when they grow up, what they love about school or their experience staying at home during the pandemic. Encouraging families to continue reading with their kids and prioritizing their children’s education has been a challenge for educators worldwide since schools closed, but even short-term initiatives like this can give parents goals and keep up learning momentum at home. 

Finding creative ways to reach families is critical for several reasons. Development practitioners fear that in places like Nigeria, where early marriage is common for young women, recent gains made in advancing girls’ rights to education and equality will diminish the longer schools are out. In Bauchi and Sokoto states, literacy rates were already very low and the number of out of school children was above average. 

But by sharing stories like this and the winners’ entries, kids can set a positive example for their peers about the power of literacy. 

“Reading helps me to know more about my community and enables me to support them,” said Idris A. Idris, a finalist from Bauchi. 

Part of the “whole child, whole teacher, whole school” approach, involving parents at every step is essential to transforming a culture around reading and education. When asked about the impact this competition had on her child, one finalist’s parent said:

“It will allow my child to read very well, and I will try my best to see that all my children go to school up to the university level.”

In other efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, NEI Plus partnered with UNICEF in Bauchi state and the World Bank in Sokoto state to develop radio lessons that reached over 500,000 students in primary and non-formal learning centers. Also, the Initiative produced Interactive Voice Response (IVR) messages for Early Grade Reading instructions in Hausa and English. Over 11,000 participants, including parents and teachers, received seven different IVR lessons with their wards in Bauchi and Sokoto states.

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