Nigeria: Education program praised by U.S. Ambassador
By Caiti Goodman
October 2, 2013
In Nigeria, fewer than 10 percent of children continue on to secondary school. The U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria had an opportunity to visit with kids who are reversing the trend.
“It makes me very happy to see you in school, studying,” Ambassador Brennan told students during his visit to one school in the Bauchi State. “This will give you a wonderful opportunity.”
Ambassador Brennan toured schools offering enhanced academics and vocational training, especially girls and Qur’anic school students, in Bauchi and Sokoto states that are supported by the Nigeria Northern Education Initiative (NEI.)
The four-year program—funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Creative Associates International, the Nigerian government, and a consortium of local and international partners—bolsters teacher education and supports vulnerable children’s access to basic education in the two states.
NEI also offers vocational skills equipment, enabling students to learn trades such as tailoring and carpentry.
By taking a holistic approach to education, NEI addresses academic needs, but uses schools as platforms to ensure even the most vulnerable children have access to health, gender and economic equity activities.
Ambassador Brennan’s August 2013 visit included a stop at Isah Modibbo Qur’anic School, where NEI reaches 200 at-risk children with a nine-month basic education course that has so far enabled 13 of them to integrate into official schools.
In many Qur’anic schools in northern Nigeria, children pursue Islamic studies and Qur’anic recitation instead of an academic curriculum.
Through NEI, facilitators are trained to manage non-formal learning and vulnerable children, and provide psychosocial counseling, daily lunches and supplemental instruction in literacy, numeracy and life skills.
The program also distributes school supplies, such as textbooks, uniforms and crayons, to children who otherwise could not afford them.
As he visited vocational training centers and literacy classes, Ambassador Brennan spent time with female students aged 12 to 17 as they learned pastry making, hairdressing, knitting and sewing.
He applauded visible signs of improvement in girls’ education presented each of them with gifts such as school bags and water bottles.
Bauchi’s Director of Adult and Non Formal Education Agency, Hajiya Yelwa Tafawa Balewa, expressed appreciation for the way NEI has improved the state’s ability to manage schools.
A key activity is NEI’s work with the state to collect classroom data and using it to craft sustainable plans for increasing enrollment, literacy and teacher effectiveness.
Along with community and religious leaders, community representatives and NEI staff, the Ambassador also met with senior government officials from the State Universal Basic Education Board, which has provided support such as constructing classrooms, providing instructional materials and deploying a facilitator to support literacy and numeracy instruction in the school.
As his visit came to a close, Ambassador Brennan was received by the Emir of Dass, Alhaji Usman Bilyaminu Othman and given a formal chiefdom ceremony in appreciation of the U.S. government assistance in health, agriculture and education in Bauchi state.
“In the area of education, NEI has done a lot in the training and retraining of our officials and teachers and in girls’ education,” said the Emir of Dass.
Ambassador Brennan was “crowned” with a traditional headdress and given the official title of “Dan Chokalin of Dass:” the spoon that feeds Dass.
“This is really quite wonderful,” he said. “I feel so good, I may not leave.”