Founders of Universal Learning Solutions, USL, Gary and Naomi Foxcroft have expressed satisfaction with the success recorded with their Jolly Phonics project since its inception in the past 15 years, describing it as the largest and most effective English literacy project in Africa.

The program is a fun and child-centered approach to teaching synthetic phonics

The couple expressed happiness that the project which began in 2006 in a rural school in Akwa Ibom State South-South Nigeria has through the partnership of many inspirational people and organizations spread its tentacles to 22 countries in the African region and Asia.

Gary and Naomi Foxcroft who spoke recently, at an event in Abuja to mark the 15th anniversary of the programme remarked that they are blessed to serve humanity in such capacity.

Represented by the Country Director of Universal Learning Solutions, Mr. Patrick Uzu, they thanked individuals who were instrumental in making this project a success.

“How blessed we have been to serve humanity in such a way, working with so many inspirational people and organisations along the journey, as together we grew Jolly Phonics from one school in rural Akwa lbom State to the largest and most effective English literacy project in Africa.

“In amongst the troubling times in which we have been living, the story of Jolly Phonics in Nigeria and how this inspired the philanthropy behind its expansion to a further 22 countries in Africa and Asia, acts as a beacon of hope that brighter times may be ahead.

“The world needs more stories like this one and many incredible people have played a part in this since we carried out the first pilot of Jolly Phonics in Akwa lbom State back in 2006.

“We thank God for sending these angels our way over the years and please allow us to mention a few of those who have played such an important role in the success of Jolly Phonics in Nigeria” they.

The Country Director of ULS said the Jolly Phonics project has been very instrumental in the literacy skill of the pupils across the country.

He said the project seeks to ensure that children of primary one to three can read and get ready to study on their own without supervision when they get to primary four.

According to him, the project which improves the pupil’s knowledge of the letter sound has recorded a nationwide coverage of the 36 states and the FCT.

While noting that some states are doing better than others with the project, Mr. Uzu expressed optimism that if sustained, especially in the public schools, the project will significantly achieve its aim of improving literacy.

He said ULS is currently training about 150,000 teachers nationwide to understand the Jolly Phonics pedagogy to impact its targeted 10m children.

Speaking at the occasion, the Executive Secretary Universal Basic Education Commission, Dr. Hamid Bobboyi lauded ULS for the Jolly Phonics programme which he said teaches learners to read and write, employing fun and activity-based approaches.

Bobboyi who was represented by Mrs. Obasi Patience of the Department of Teachers Development said the programme has helped in improving the literacy level of the children since the Commission entered into partnership with ULS.

The success recorded, he said, inspired UBEC to make Jolly Phonics training mandatory in Teacher Professional Development, TPD.

He said, “The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in the year 2012 entered into a partnership with Universal Learning Solutions, ULS the organizers of the Jolly Phonics Programme at a time when the level of literacy was very low in the Basic Education Sector. At the initial stage of engagement, the training was optional, only states interested in literacy held the training using the UBEC Teacher Professional Development, TPD fund.

“In the year 2015, based on the reports from the UBEC field officers in the States where the training was 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 one to three teachers in the Basic Education Sub-sector.

“Permit me to also reiterate that, 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.”

In his remarks, the Executive Secretary National Commission for Colleges of Education, NCCE Prof. Paulinus Chijoke Okwelle expressed satisfaction that within 15 years of the Jolly Phonics programme in Nigeria, it has through its systematic synthetic phonic promoted the development of literacy in Nigerian schools.

He said the Universal Learning Solutions has reinstalled the hope of many education stakeholders in the country by deploying an interactive and learner-friendly approach to achieve significant success to raise future leaders who can contribute meaningfully in resolving challenges which directly affect them.

Prof. Okwelle who was represented by the Head, Early Grade Reading, Razaq Adeyemi Badmus said the Jolly Phonics programme has attracted significant attention with successes recorded, including leading to the introduction of Early Grade Reading concept.

“Before now, developing literacy and learning skills in young children was a major area in Teacher Education that has not attracted much attention if not total neglect.

“For a very long time, record has not shown much of deliberate efforts made towards developing appropriate methods and learning materials for developing communication skills in English studies in government primary schools.

“Through the initiative of ULS and a few other international partners on literacy, not only that some staff of the NCCE and some others from our Colleges of Education have been trained, it is this collaboration that culminated into the inclusion of Early Grade Reading concept (EGR) for the first time in the latest edition of the NCE Minimum Standards in programmes such as Early Childhood Care Education, Adult Education, English language studies and in General Studies Education.”

Individuals who have contributed in making this project a reality were at the event presented with awards.

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