Girl jumping on letters

The Kano Literacy and Maths Accelerator (KaLMA) pilot project was launched in October 2019 by the Kano State Universal Basic Education Board, Ministry of Education, and Sa’adatu Rimi College of Education in collaboration with the British Council and Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) Africa with funding from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). Due to COVID-19 related school closures, the pilot was put on hold from April to December 2020 and resumed in schools in January 2021. The programme aims to build foundational Maths, Hausa, and English literacy skills for over 37,000 Primary 4 to Primary 6 pupils in two full local government areas, Dawakin Tofa and Wudil in Kano State, Nigeria. The programme is rooted in the teaching at the right level evidence and approach. This approach involves assessing children on foundational skills and grouping them by learning level rather than age or grade level for two hours per day when they focus on foundational skills in reading and arithmetic. The program is also piloting two innovations: student teacher facilitation and a dual language approach to English learning.

The dual-language approach to foundational skills in English deploys the children’s home language to assist their learning of an additional one. In KaLMA, Hausa is used as a bridge to learning English. Examples include using the L1 (Hausa) for initial engagement in a task that later transitions to English (L2) or using bilingual flashcards and storybooks. It plays out in the classroom as follows: picture reading – children first say in Hausa what they see in a picture, for example, a market scene, through a vocabulary-focused activity using the words for basic fruits and vegetables, which activity is then extended into English. Another activity is a word-building game where children are given a set of letter cards to form words in Hausa. They then play the game in English. The dual-language approach is consolidated by listening and doing – children are given an oral instruction that they have to respond to by performing a related action, e.g. ‘stand up. The activity is first done in Hausa, then in English. This approach builds on important research findings referenced in the British Council publication, English language and medium of instruction in basic education in low-and-middle-income countries which shows that if young students in low-or middle-income countries are first taught in their own or a familiar language, rather than English, they are more likely to understand what they are learning and be more successful academically (including in English as a subject).

During school closures, the KaLMA team pivoted the programme to support the Kano State Government’s endeavors to help children continue learning from home. A package of remote support including radio broadcasts, text messages, automated voice messages (AVMs), and a toll-free line was developed to provide Home Based Learning (HBL) assistance to families in Wudil and Dawakin Tofa. Educators were also supported during school closures with continuing professional development (CPD) delivered via WhatsApp, text messages, and AVM in Maths and English. The STEP materials, developed by the British Council, were deployed for the English CPD for their contextual relevance.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the spread of the coronavirus and lessons learned about the importance of home engagement during the school closure period, some home-focused support, alongside the in-school KaLMA programme, will continue to be provided in 2021 as part of a costed extension to the initiative. This includes foundational reading and mathematics worksheets, activity text messages, and ongoing radio broadcasts.

Father and Son listening  to the Radio  ©

British Council