AUN Gives Hope to Children in N’East

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Daji Sani writes that the American University of Nigeria in Yola, has used the ‘Technology Enhanced Literacy for All’ project to train thousands of children in the insurgency ravaged North-east

The education system in the North-east of the country has suffered grave damage because of the Boko Haram’s incessant attacks and unrelenting poverty in the region. Children in their thousands, particularly those displaced from their homes and families by the violence have no school to attend and no teachers to attend to them.

Apart from the devastation brought about by insurgency, stakeholders have also raised the alarm that the astronomical growth in the population of Nigeria is another serious threat to education if something is not done urgently to address the challenges which they described as more deadlier than Boko Haram.

Stakeholders in the education sector within and outside the North-east region and beyond recently converged at the American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, the capital of Adamawa State, to deliberate on workable measures to adopt to redeem the situation.

The stakeholders were drawn from School of Legal Studies, Adamawa State University Adamawa State Universal Basic Education (ADSUBEB), Ministry of Education, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Muslim Council, traditional rulers, USAID, AUN and all Colleges of Education in the state to attend series of meetings to mark the end of the first quarter of ‘Technology Enhanced Literacy for All’ (TELA) project and are part of activities also to mark the World Literacy Day.

However many of them suggested that in addressing these challenges, the government should look beyond the conventional classroom setting which according to them, the infrastructural facilities in most of Nigeria schools are not enough to contain all the population of children seeking enrollment and those forced out of schools by the insurgency.

Representative of USAID, Hajiya Nafisa Ado, while speaking at an event organised by AUN to mark the World Literacy Day, said children with no education, no prospects, no hope make easy targets for terrorist recruiters and other criminals. Therefore all hands must be on deck to save the situation from getting out of control.

According to her, the AUN has become a rally point for stakeholders and state government, adding that the ‘Technology Enhanced Literacy for All’ project funded by USAID has the capacity to address the challenges of education in the region if adequate attention is given to the project by the Nigerian government.

Ado was optimistic that the TELA project championed by the AUN will go a long way not only at improving the quality of education, but also by educating a large number of children at a time than class room setting because of how the programme is designed.

Apart from expressing satisfaction on the methodology used by AUN in handling the project, Ado also lauded the content of the curriculum adding that it was well researched and developed. She commended the university’s professors for coming up with such learning materials which she said within a shortest time children who were exposed to the material can read easily.

Ado who explained that the duration of the TELA project was 12 months noted that because of the impact the programme has created among children of the state, the AUN has asked for more three months to get more stakeholders and rich individuals to be involved in the project with the aim to expand the programme to other states.

The Director of Quality Assurance of Adamawa State Universal Basic Education (ADSUBEB), Mallam Saidu Komsari, said the TELA project was an eye opener to the state government and the society as he extolled the institution for bringing development to the state following her activities in its host community.

Komsari who acknowledged that the World Literacy Day has never been celebrated in style like this year’s celebration, said that TELA programmes have made it possible to celebrate the World Literacy Day at the same time across the over 423 learning centres identified for the programmes in the 21 local government areas including the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps.

“Within a shortest period of time the TELA programmes have exposed our short comings and I am going to do memo on this effect to the state government to see how we can help children who have no access to education read and have knowledge of numeracy skills,” Komsari said.

He said he believed that quality and access to education should be extended to all adding that the programmes is very effective and it has been tested. He appealed that Technical Working Group be formed to sustain the programme.
The Paramount Ruler, The Lamido of Adamawa, Dr. Mohammedu Barkindo Musdafa, said the institution has lived up to its name as a development university following its activities in the North-east.
“AUN has brought laughter to the faces of many hopeless people who were displaced by the insurgency, it has also given out scholarship to some IDPs and donated a lot of relief materials to IDPs and over 22,000 children have benefitted from its TELA project.”

The Lamido called on Nigerians especially the people to always live peacefully with one another because God did not make mistake at creating and bring us to coexist together.
Mr. Liman Audu, Grant Administrator, Office of the President of AUN, said TELA project implemented by the AUN was funded by USAID to reach over 20,000 mainly out of school children aged 6-17 years old across 21 local government areas of the state through well prepared and broadcast radio lessons to enhance literacy and numeracy twice each week for 30 weeks.

Audu said the institution has collaborated with the Adamawa State government from the inception of the project and have trained all the quality assurance staff of the Adamawa State Universal Basic Education (ADSUBEB) across 21 local government area as facilitators in the over 423 identified learning centres. “Our monitoring team goes for follow-up visits to be sure that right thing is done,” he added.

According to him, the radio lessons are supplemented with face-to-face instruction using tablet computers installed with apps, e-learning resources and video learning content in English and local languages. He added that where schools are still functioning at some level, there are after school tutoring using tablets to further to compliment radio instruction as well as reading camp to promote reading.

Audu said the TELA project has four components, the radio instruction target of 20,000 vulnerable, at risk, orphaned and IDP children within communities, while the afterschool tutoring is implemented in four selected primary schools close to AUN and 100 AUN students who had enrolled in community development (CDS) classes are used as tutors.

He said the third component is Feed and Read, 100 almajiris are feed one meal per a day for seven days per week and two hours of literacy and numeracy instruction, three times per week and the last component is Reading Camps using intensive literacy coaching for five days using storybooks, workbooks, e-books and apps on tablet computers for at least 1,500 children and follow-up activities such as distribution of reading materials in English and Hausa languages.

For sustainability, the institution has trained stakeholders from colleges of education and the Adamawa State University and it said it had involved the state government from the beginning and have been using qualified and trained staff of ADSUBUB as facilitators in all the learning centres identified, while AUN plays the monitoring and evaluation roles.

AUN also provided security for children to make sure they are safe back home and also check the pupils to make sure that none is recruited by the insurgents to detonate bombs at the centres especially the one at AUN’s premises. AUN has given scholarships to some of these children who are displaced.

Professor Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob of AUN, who is one of the facilitators at the one day workshop convened at the e-library of the institution to showcase before stakeholders of the successes of the TELA projects within one year of its existence in Adamawa State.
Jacob said the TELA programmes were not just designed for reading and numeracy only it was designed to increase the desire for learning in children such as the use of storybooks written by AUN students contenting names of actors that the children are familiar with.

He further explained that for the radio lessons they were designed in forms of songs and drama to improve the reading skills in children.

Jacob said after evaluating the project from when they started till the time it is supposed to elapse, beneficiaries who couldn’t read at the inception of the programmes could read and even do some basic calculations in numeracy as he added that their target was 50 per cent but they got over 50 per cent in all the components of the TELA project.

Also speaking, Professor Grace Malgwi, a professor of English at AUN, said the goal of TELA is to fortify academic foundation of the children where they are taught foundation skills on literacy and numeracy .

She said they were taught phonetics in English Language which aid the children to start reading themselves within the shortest period of time adding that the reason why pupils at the Nigerian public find it difficult to read is because they are not exposed to various type of sounds in English.

A cross section of beneficiaries who spoke to THISDAY at AUN, said they can now read and do some mathematical calculations following their exposure to literacy and numeracy. They expressed joy and satisfaction saying they could read and write now. Parents also expressed joy and satisfaction over TELA programmes which they said have given their children hope of a bright future.

One of them who identified himself as Mallam Musa, said they couldn’t send their children to school again because they were ravaged by the insurgency and flee for their lives. “Thank God for AUN and the former Vice Presendent Atiku Abubakar for establishing the institution, it has helped us.”

Over 2,500 beneficiaries mainly children were brought to AUN to test their reading capacities before stakeholders and the students did excellently well.