The Kano Literacy and Maths Accelerator (KaLMA) programme was an educational programme organised through a collaboration by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the British Council and Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) Africa. Funded through UK Aid, the programme aimed to improve literacy and numeracy among the Primary four to Primary six pupils by piloting the Teaching at the Right Level approach in Kano State, Nigeria.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the key role that radio can play in reaching households and keeping the learning going in times of crisis. During school closures, the KaLMA team pivoted the programme to support the Kano State Government’s endeavours 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, was provided in 2021 as part of a costed extension to the initiative. This included foundational reading and mathematics worksheets, activity text messages, and ongoing learning-by-radio broadcasts.
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 aimed to build foundational Hausa, English and Maths skills for over 37,000 Primary 4 to Primary 6 pupils in two entire local government areas, Dawakin Tofa and Wudil in Kano State, Nigeria. The programme is rooted in 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 programme also piloted 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).
By the end of the programme, foundational Hausa, English and Maths skills were provided for 37,000 Primary 4 (P4) to Primary 6 (P6) pupils in Dawakin Tofa and Wudil LGAs in Kano state. They also supported the state government in its education-in-emergency response. This included repurposing KaLMA materials, as well as existing British Council, TaRL Africa and other open education resource materials, to suit the delivery of remote learning to the home environment.
KaLMA also provided training and capacity building support for 1,196 teachers, 255 head teachers, 181 schools within two LGAs, 96 student teachers, 50 school support officers and 33 master trainers.
Dr Christopher Pycroft, Development Director at the British High Commission in Abuja had this to say about the KaLMA programme: “I am proud of what the Kano Literacy and Maths Accelerator has achieved. The legacy of its achievements will live long, especially now that the Kano State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) has committed to sustaining and embedding accelerated learning in Kano State education plans. The programme’s composition, execution and achievements all stand out as a model of partnership and collaboration. This is in no small part down to the fantastic delivery partners such as the Kano SUBEB, the British Council and TaRL Africa, who were critical to KaLMA’s success. I look forward to the UK supporting many more opportunities like this to make a real tangible positive difference to the lives and futures of girls and boys in Kano and across education in Nigeria.”
The KaLMA project will live on in a continuation project named the ”Partnership for Learning for all in Nigeria (PLANE)”.
For more information on the KaLMA project: https://www.britishcouncil.org.ng/kalma