Radio Learning Brings Hope and Education to Displaced Children like Awana in North-East Nigeria
Through funding from the German Government (KfW), the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and Education Cannot Wait (ECW), UNICEF is supporting radio learning classes and radio clubs as alternative learning pathways in north-east Nigeria.
Awana Umaru's life was turned upside down when he and his family were displaced by conflict from their home in Mafa Local Government Area, Nigeria, eight years ago. The young boy found himself in an IDP camp in Maiduguri, Borno State, where he faces daily nightmares and constant struggles to survive. Despite the hardships, Awana found meaning, friendship, and purpose through radio learning classes offered at the camp for out-of-school children.
Every morning, Awana and dozens of other displaced children eagerly wait for trailers to offload sacks of food grains. There is fierce fighting among the children as they scramble to collect the grains landing on the hot, dusty sand. "I have been pelted with stones many times by other children; I have also stoned them in return.
One must be prepared for that battle; otherwise, you will return home with nothing,'' Awana shared.
But the radio learning classes offer a break from the daily chaos, providing a community of friends, peace, and order that gives Awana something to look forward to. "The hygiene lessons are what I remember most. I share everything I learn with my sisters, Yagana and Inna. Our mother will be in greater financial difficulty if we fall ill out of poor hygiene and sanitation practices,'' he said.
Thanks to support from the German Government (KfW), Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and Education Cannot Wait (ECW), UNICEF is providing radio learning classes and radio clubs as alternative learning education pathways and advocating for girl child education in north-east Nigeria. With 56% of displaced children in the region out of school, the radio learning classes, facilitated through states’ Universal Basic Education Boards and partners such as the Restoration of Hope Initiative (RoHI), provide out-of-school children in IDP camps with access to education.
"The focus of the radio learning program is for poor and displaced children to have access to education services. The endgame is that the children would be mainstreamed into the formal education system after a period of nine months. In other communities, radio clubs are helping to enroll girls in school. The clubs are led by children, and after listening to pre-recorded radio education programs on the benefits of girl child education, they use the information to act plays in market squares and community centres,'' said Lincoln Ajoku, UNICEF Education Specialist in Maiduguri.
For children like Awana, learning through the radio has other benefits beyond education. It offers the opportunity to meet new friends, exchange friendly banters, and deal with the trauma of multiple deprivations. His new friends, Ali and Bakora, are also displaced children who share his struggles.
Awana dreams of becoming a teacher someday, hoping to pass on the knowledge he gained from the radio learning classes. His sisters, Yagana and Inna, are also interested in education, and Awana wants to ensure that they have access to education too.
The story of Awana Umaru is a reminder that despite the adversity, hope and determination can thrive in the most challenging of circumstances. Through education and community, Awana, and children like him, are finding a path forward, one filled with possibilities and a brighter future.