In the northern Nigerian town of Kano, a recent government survey reveals that over two million Muslim children are studying in primary schools that mix Islamic and western education.  Over 900,000 are attending schools with only Western-style curricula. Over two million students in most schools in Kano state adhere to traditional Islamic education, where students are taught to memorize the Muslim Holy Book, the Quran. But education experts say the integrated schools will likely boost literacy levels in northern Nigeria. From Kano, Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Isiyaku Ahmed tells us that one organization -- called Community Participation for Action in the Social Sector, or COMPASS --- is helping schools to develop an integrated curriculum.  I

n addition to traditional Islamic teachings, students are being taught how to read and write in English and Hausa.  They are also taking classes in mathematics, social studies, and science.

COMPASS is funded by the United States Agency for International Development, the Nigerian federal government, and various state governments.

Shabbabu Islamiyya is a special primary school in the northern town of Kano and it is one of the many institutions receiving assistance from COMPASS.

Nafisa Ado is the Kano State Education Specialist with COMPASS.  He says ?The general idea is to work with schools to intervene in the area of learning literacy and numeracy (mathematics). We work in collaboration with state governments as well as with PTA?s [parent-teacher associations] and with the community. For example, our key intervention is the interactive radio instruction program where pupils in primary schools are targeted. The intervention is given to increase their learning of literacy and [math].? 

Ado says teachers are trained to develop a lesson plan and conduct classroom sessions. They also learn how to use interactive radio instructions or IRI, which includes topics taught over the radio with an additional teacher. Ado says COMPASS provides each school with radios: ?Lessons are planned so that the class room teacher mediates between the radio and the pupils, so that you have a scenario in the radio with pupils, teachers and other characters. They give instructions to the radio teacher and the radio teacher transmits it to the learners. Then there is an after lesson to round up [review] the IRI. The IRI is supposed to be a supplement to a classroom lesson so that when you teach IRI you follow it up with other classroom lessons to back it up.?

One IRI program is called 'Lets Go Learning.? In Kano, the 30-minute program is broadcast on the two state owned radio stations every school day. The program is divided into three series; Animal Garden for primary 4, Lets Go Learning for primary 5, and Aunty Bola's Workshop for primary 6. The series teach, among other things, arithmetic, English and good hygiene.

Before the broadcast, pupils in the classroom are given the necessary writing materials that are required for their series.

During one of the programs, for example, the radio teacher instructs students on how to do simple addition; the classroom teacher is available to help. After the broadcast, the classroom teacher reviews the lesson with the students. Though boys and girls sit on opposite sides of the classroom, all students are given an equal chance to participate.

Yadadda Maikano Bichi is the COMPASS specialist with Islamiyya schools. She says the program is popular in the north, ?It is being accepted by Islam. The community, the traditional institution, the religious institution, and parents in particular are appreciating what is happening. That is why COMPASS is working with many of these schools that have integrated.?

Education specialists say literacy rates are lower in the mostly Hausa speaking north than in the western region of Nigeria which is pre-dominantly Yoruba. They attribute the difference to religious and cultural reasons. They say a combination of Islamic and western educational curricula can reduce the gap.

In Kano 202 of its 605 Islamic primary schools that are registered with COMPASS use integrated curricula.  Besides Kano, 18 other northern states have similar integrated schools. Lagos is included with integrated programs in states outside the north.