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15 years of Jolly Phonics in Nigeria: helping pupils read and write

Wednesday 14th of September 2021 marked the 15th anniversary of introducing Jolly Phonics into Nigerian Basic Education school. Jolly phonics programme which is a fun…

Wednesday 14th of September 2021 marked the 15th anniversary of introducing Jolly Phonics into Nigerian Basic Education school.

Jolly phonics programme which is a fun and child-centred approach to teaching synthetic phonics was introduced into the Nigerian basic schools in 2006, starting with the arrival of the CEO of Universal Learning Solutions Gary and his wife Naomi Foxcroft who set up a charity school in Eket, Akwa Ibom State.

It was at this school that the teaching of Jolly phonics began, as learners were taught to read and write employing fun and activity-based approaches.

Universal learning Solutions (ULS) is a not-for-profit organisation-a community Interest Company in the UK whose vision is of a world where all children can read and write with confidence and enjoy their right to learn.

Their work is driven simply by the desire to help as many children as possible experience the wonder of reading and writing.

UN Statistics show that in Nigeria 50% of in-school children cannot read or write,63% of children who live in rural areas cannot read at all and 84% of children in the lowest economic class cannot read at all.

Burdened with this figures the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in 2012 entered into a partnership with Universal Learning Solutions (ULS) the initiators of the Jolly Phonics Programme.

In the year 2015, based on the reports from the UBEC field officers in the States where the trainings were conducted, the UBEC Management included Jolly Phonics as a mandatory training in the Teacher Professional Development (TPD). So far, the Federal Government using the TPD funds has trained Primary 1-Primary 3 teachers in Basic Education Sub-sector.

The Executive Secretary of Universal Basic Education Commission,Dr Hamid Bobboyi in his goodwill message at the commemoration of the 15th Anniversary of Jolly Phonics in Nigeria says he personally finds jolly phonics pedagogy interesting and enjoyable.

“Its approaches are stimulating and enriching, it combines a range of teaching methodology that effortlessly allows learners associate learning with fun. You will agree with me that while we have to ensure that our learners in basic Schools learn to read and write with little or no supervision, we equally have to make learning fun for them; hence, Jolly phonics provides such opportunity,”Bobboyi said

“The Commission having found the Jolly Phonics programme relevant to its objective of improving literacy development of basic education learners has over the years supported its inclusion in the basic education Curriculum in basic schools across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT, whilst also ensuring that our teachers are trained and re-trained on the Jolly Phonics pedagogy to be able to effectively teach learners to read and write,”Bobboyi explains further.

The Country Director of  Universal Learning Solutions (ULS) Patrick Uzu says with Jolly Phonics they adhere to simple view of reading which proposes that two key factors lead to reading fluency; word reading and comprehension.

“With this in mind, we give teachers the skills to teach word reading using systematic phonics taught through story ,songs and actions. Our close links with UK literacy experts and leading publishers enable us to draw on a variety of approaches that are unique to those we serve.”

Explaining further, Uzu said the biggest thing that can happen to any country is to be able to adapt.

“The Jolly Phonics teaching methodology was a programme meant for Britain but we have been able to adapt it in Nigeria working in partnership with government.”

“Since the inception of the Jolly Phonics programme in Nigeria, we are proud of the milestones recorded. UBEC in collaboration with Universal Learning Solutions (ULS) has trained about 144,733 teachers, 5,755 UBEC, SUBEB, and LGEA officials while millions of children are being empowered to read and write across the thirty-six states of the federation and FCT.”

“We support government school teachers to deliver fun, high quality literacy tuition through direct teacher training and ongoing mentoring whilst also working closely with schools and government to ensure the sustainability of our work. Evidence shows that our model gives children of all abilities and backgrounds  the skills needed to read and write helping governments meet their global education targets,”Uzu explained.

The Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) Prof.Paulinus Chijioke Okwelle during the 15th anniversary ceremony of Jolly Phonics in Nigeria held in Abuja also said Nigeria had once gotten to a point when the consistent dwindling standard of literacy was becoming a nightmare.

According to him, this happened because the conventional methods and approaches were not interactive and learner-friendly saying the positive change of narrative by Jolly Phonics through its remarkable successes, came to re-install the hope of many education stakeholders.

“Today, with this onerous intervention in literacy, many of our school managers at the primary level are beginning to rejoice and boast of young learners who on graduation, can read and write effectively, thus empowering and setting them on the path that will allow these future leaders of tomorrow to be able to contribute meaningfully in resolving challenges which directly affect them.”

The initiators of Jolly Phonics in Nigeria, Gary and Naomi Foxcroft said they are happy that Jolly Phonics has grown from one school in rural Akwa Ibom state to be the largest and most effective English literacy project in Africa.

” The academic team had assessed the impact of Jolly Phonics and we were delighted to see the result highlighting massive increases in literacy levels for the Jolly Phonics Pupils.”

One of the Jolly Phonics teachers at Festival Road Primary School Garki, Abuja, Mrs Freda Bako is quoted to say jolly phonics had helped to develop the skills of teachers and as well enhance literacy skills of pupils, adding the programme which commenced in late 2018 in the school has brought about increased enrolment and retention of pupils in the school.

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