Country Director, Universal Learning Solutions ULS, founders of the Jolly Phonics learning methodology, Patrick Uzo said teacher transfer and inadequate resources were the major challenges of the programme in the country.
Uzo spoke at a celebratory event held to mark the 15th anniversary of Jolly Phonics teaching methodology since its introduction into basic levels education in Nigeria in 2006.
The learning methodology aimed at catching readers young, focuses on teaching nursery and primary I to 3 pupils the 46 alphabetical sounds, thereby heightening their ability to read words. Their consistent exposure to jolly phonics methodology from nursery to primary 3, prepares them to easily tackle grammar in primary four.
However, transfer of teachers trained in the jolly phonics teaching methodology to different level of classes, or to schools’ uninitiated in jolly phonics defeats the project’s purpose.
He further noted that the inadequate supply of jolly phonics resource materials, such as the jolly phonics workbooks, including support for teachers’ training, monitoring and evaluation, as another major challenge to the programme.
He said that despite Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC, and States Universal Basic Education Board SUBEB’s, effort to support through massive investment in resources (following the exhaustion of the initial resources donated by Jolly phonics founder, Chris Jolly) the commission and board’s efforts remain a far cry from the number of children in public schools.
“Children learning how to read need workbooks. Every child should have a workbook. To quantify the cost of resources needed includes cost of training, and support systems such as mentoring and monitoring.”
He, however noted, that the programme had been able to make progress in the past fifteen years, from training 50,000 people the first year, to 150,000 teachers across the 36 states of the federation today. Although the progress varied from state to state depending on their period of induction to jolly phonics.
“Nigerian children are doing better in reading. In 2019, we had a national mean that was less than the international mean. Another Jolly phonics exercise (which tested the children’s knowledge of letter sounds, the bedrock for reading; and number of (difficult) words they can read) saw an increase in the national mean. If we maintain the momentum, in a few years, our children going to primary one should be able to read even before moving on to primary two. Such that when they are in primary four, they are able to read to learn by themselves.
Uzo listed adaptability and a working partnership with government as unbeatable models to success.
ULS, he revealed is poised for another fifteen years run focused on researching the impact of jolly phonics methodology on artisans and junior secondary school students in October; in addition to providing strong education foundation for out-of-school girl-child via working with their various communities.
“Girl-child education is not all about girls learning but about impacting their entire life. They should not just drop out of school after primary six or secondary school, they should go to university. Out-of-school girls in the country are everywhere in the north, south, east and west. We are developing different approaches to reach more of them,” concluded Uzo.
To mark the occasion, the not-for-profit organization awarded individuals who had gone beyond their duty to deploy jolly phonics for the education of the Nigerian child; and public figures who fostered government partnership and support to the success of the programme.
Individuals awarded include Kano State teacher, Inawusi Lawal, who made drawings accompanying jolly phonics flashcards. Yahaya, also a teacher in Kano State, who transformed his classroom with jolly phonics reading aids for his pupils; Kaduna State’s Mallam Nasiru, who convened and taught children of his community with the jolly phonics methodology devoid of the state government’s support since 2011. And Grace Odiah for her contributions to jolly phonics expansion in Nigeria, and founding the first school for the underprivileged and homeless to run the jolly phonics methodology experiment.
Officials awarded include Chief Ikeje Asogwa of UBEC Enugu for his contribution in the spread of jolly phonics use in the state; University of Uyo’s Professor Comfort Ekpo for leading the first research on the impact of jolly phonics in Nigeria; Dr. Sam Oti for his role in the institution of jolly phonics in the NCCE curriculum; Mallam Abbas Mohammed for taking jolly phonics beyond their wildest dreams and Mariam Afamide of the University of Akwa Ibom for her passion and dedication to the jolly phonics objective.
Also awarded were Uzo and his spouse Stella Nnenna Uzo; and Gilbert Jolly, son of Jolly Phonics founder, Chris Jolly, for developing the jolly phonic apps to aid the education of the Nigerian child, and his fiancée Louise for the energy, passion and drive she brought to the initiative.
Final awards were received by the ULS Technical Director, Gary Foxcroft and his wife Naomi, for their passion to aid the literacy of the Nigerian child.