A fourth-grader at the Malamawa Primary School in northwest Nigeria, Hadiza Hamza hopes to become a teacher one day. It’s a dream that seemed out of reach for young Hamza just last year, when she was one of the millions of children out of school in northern Nigeria.
Eager to learn how to read and write, Hamza asked her father to enroll her in the six month jump-start program: the Northern Education Initiative Plus (NEI+). The literacy program, established in 2015, made possible by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Creative Associates International has opened up a world of possibility for Hamza and others like her.
“I wanted to be educated but I never had an opportunity till a center opened in our community,” explained Hamza. “I could learn to read and write conveniently.”
After attending classes and taking advantage of learning materials like books and writing supplies, Hamza passed the NEI+ exit exam and joined her peers in the fourth grade this past March.
Through NEI+, USAID and Creative Associates International are working to get more kids like Hamza into the classroom. But with 30 percent of children in northern Nigeria currently lacking access basic education, this is a steep challenge. A host of barriers keep kids out of the classroom, from inadequate resources to a shortage of school facilities. And the ongoing insurgency in Nigeria has displaced over one million school-age children. Even for those students who are enrolled in school, the quality of instruction is a serious concern. All too often, educators lack the training and resources needed to teach effectively.
NEI+ is expanding access to education, while also improving the quality of instruction in Nigeria’s remote northern regions of Bauchi and Sokoto. So far, the program has established 800 non-formal learning centers across the northern states, giving over 36,000 out-of-school kids like Hamza an opportunity to learn basic reading and math. And by working with federal, state, and local governments, the program will equip 45,000 local teachers with new materials and instruction techniques in order to strengthen Nigeria’s existing education system. All told, NEI+ plans to change the lives of 2 million Nigerian children in five years.
NEI+ also works to promote gender inclusivity in the classroom. Through community outreach, advocacy, and learning centers designed specifically for adolescent girls, the program is working to help girls and other marginalized groups – like religious minorities and the disabled – access a quality education and build valuable life skills.
NEI+ has opened doors to a quality education for millions of Nigerian children who would have otherwise had limited access to even the most basic levels of schooling.
“I loved my books. I liked the pictures, especially the airplane. I know one day I will travel in it when I become a teacher,” said Hamza.