Abuja – The U.S. has signed a grant agreement of 801,000 dollars with the American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, to improve access to education services for internally displaced persons in Adamawa.
Ms Maria Brewer, Chargé d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy, in her remarks at the agreement signing event in Abuja on Tuesday, said the grant was an additional assistance to the displaced populations in Adamawa.
Brewer said with the 801,000 dollars grant, the U.S. Government’s grant to the university through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had reached 901,000 dollars.
“Last year, the U.S. Government, through USAID, awarded 100,000 dollars to AUN to provide humanitarian assistance to children of displaced families in Yola,’’ she said.
Brewer added: “AUN has been a good partner in that endeavour. In the spirit of partnership, it is my pleasure to witness today the signing of this agreement to provide an additional 801,000 dollars.
“This programme will not be limited only to schools serving the children in and around Yola.
“It will also support displaced children from other communities who have sought shelter in this community.”
The U.S. official expressed regret that 77 per cent of children in Adamawa could not read at all in any language.
“According to the 2010 National Education Data Survey, more than 53 per cent of Nigerian children between the age of five and 16 cannot read a single sentence in their native language.
“When children struggle to read, they are unable to build a foundation for learning other subjects. Many who struggle will simply drop out of school.
“The results for Adamawa were even more disheartening. Surveys show that 77 per cent of children in the state could not read at all in any language.
“With well trained teachers, books and other teaching materials, students’ reading scores can double or triple that of their peers who lack proper instruction,” she said.
She commended President Muhammadu Buhari for recognising the strategic role of education to national development and pledged the U.S. Government’s assistance to enhance Nigeria’s educational system.
“President Buhari has spoken strongly of the need to promote education as a key component to fostering economic growth and social cohesion.
“The American people stand ready to support his efforts to enhance your education system to make education accessible to all children in Nigeria,” she said.
The USAID Mission Director, Michael Harvey, who signed the grant agreement for the organisation, said the fund would provide education services for children and youths living in IDP camps and in host communities.
“The U.S. through USAID is supporting several humanitarian, transitional and longer term development activities in North Eastern Nigeria.
“The support is totalling 87.1 million dollars in collaboration with the Nigerian Government at the federal, state, and local levels,” he said.
Harvey said current and forthcoming activities of USAID would improve governmental capacity and performance as well as food security and water policy.
He also said the activities would expand the reach and effectiveness of health and education initiatives and provide services for internally displaced persons.
The President of AUN, Ms Margee Ensign, said the university would use its Student Empowerment through Language, Literacy, and Arithmetic (STELLAR) Programme to improve literacy for 20,000 vulnerable children in Adamawa.
“The STELLAR Programme engages university students enrolled in service learning courses to write children’s books in English and local languages and to tutor children in reading and mathematics after school.
Ensign said through the grant, STELLAR would expand to include radio instruction, set up learning centres and mobile classrooms and provide IDP beneficiaries with remote instruction via radio.