By Isaac Aregbesola
Abuja – The U.S Deputy Chief of Mission in Nigeria, David Young, has pledged his country’s determination to increase access to primary and secondary education and improve reading culture in Nigeria
Young made the pledge on Wednesday in Abuja at a special preview of some new films produced in Hausa Language under United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Northern Education Initiative Plus.
“We at the U.S. mission strongly believe that increasing access to education and improving reading for children helps build stronger communities in Nigeria.
“It also helps build more cohesive and resilient communities and societies and will lead Nigeria to a brighter future.
“We all know the troubles plaguing the Nigerian education system are legion.
“It ranges from having millions of youths who are not in school to the number of students already in school who still cannot read or write,” he said.
The envoy said that to address these dual issues of access and quality through USAID, the U.S. had reached out to these populations in Bauchi and Sokoto States.
According to him, this is done through an activities called Northern Education Initiative Plus also known as “The initiative,” over the last three years.
He said that the non-traditional approaches taken by the initiative had provided thousands of children with a chance to pursue a viable path to quality education.
“However, they could never do it without the support of their respective families and communities, where parents may question whether sending their children particularly girls is worth the trouble,” he said.
He said that that the new films produced in Hausa language, which were different from normal documentaries but mini dramas showcased the impact of the collaborative work in the communities.
“When parents and other community members see their children succeed at basic literacy and numeracy, they are more willing to make the sacrifices necessary to keep them in school longer.
“They see that change is possible, and that communities can take action to improve the quality of education for their children,” he said.
The Chief of Party, Northern Education Initiative Plus, Dr James Statman, said that the project had helped thousands of primary pupils in Bauchi and Sokoto access better education.
According to him, over 600,000 pupils from the two states have been trained through the initiative, which he said cost several millions of dollars.
Statman said that there were about 90,000 pupils in 900 out of schools or formal learning centres in the area that cater for the education of the young girls and boys
He said that the project was collaboration with the state governments, communities and Civil Society Organisations to achieve its aim.
The Bauchi State Team Leader of the programme, Mr Mustapha Ahmed, said that communities in the state had begun to feel the impact of the scheme.
He said that the state governments also support the programme by investing million of naira to augment its implementation.
The Sokoto State Team leader of the Programme, Mr Mohammed Ahmad, said the scheme had helped improved the reading and writing skill of thousands of pupils in the state.
He said some of the parents also had started to learn how to read and write while assisting their children in the learning process.