Statistics by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) showed that Nigeria is facing twin crises of Out-of-school Children (OOSC), and severe learning poverty with three out of every 20 OOSCs globally in Nigeria. Also, three out of four children, and even more of the poorest children, cannot read or solve simple math problems.
According to a UNICEF education specialist, Babagana Aminu, statistics showed that Nigeria contributes 15 percent to out-of-school children globally while Sub-Saharan African countries contribute 50 percent to out-of-school children.
Having grown up in Nigeria and witnessed firsthand the challenges faced by individuals in achieving fluency in the English language, the founder of The Literacy Sphere, Oleander Yuba, motivated by a deep commitment to addressing the literacy challenges prevalent in Nigeria, has actively dedicated herself to making a meaningful contribution towards improving literacy levels in the country.
During the lockdown on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, Yuba launched out into the digital space, birthing The Literacy Sphere.
She told LEADERSHIP Weekend that, “The Literacy Sphere was borne out of a deep concern and desire to enhance the quality and reach of literacy skills in Nigeria. We started by creating a range of diction and elocution courses that cater to different skill levels and goals. These courses form the foundation for our teaching. In time, we set up classes designed to help children achieve literacy within a short time using Phonics.
“The Literacy Sphere was established with a commitment to addressing the literacy
challenges of both the old and the young, and correcting the deficiency of poor use of the English language by the average Nigerian. “Our story begins with a passion for ensuring that everyone attains confidence and poise through excellent communication skills.”
Yuba averred that her primary aim at the Literacy Sphere is to transform the literacy landscape in Nigeria and on discovering that most of the communication difficulties the citizens experience originated in their childhood, she and her team proceeded to establish a subsidiary of the organisation solely focused on helping children—The Distinct Kids Club.
“At the Distinct Kids Club, we are devoted to nurturing eloquence and exquisite communication skills in children to help them navigate the world of literacy easily at a young age. We achieve this using our several initiatives that transcend the traditional academic system.
“Additionally, our initiatives are designed to first help these children break out from the belief that reading and writing are obscurities. By doing so, we enable them to see the various possibilities that exist in getting proper literacy education. We don’t just help them to read and write fluently, we also empower their minds for success and instill a growth mindset in them to help them thrive in every aspect of their lives.
“Ultimately, we guide these children to discover their innate skills and abilities as well as the passions they can leverage to impact the world, make a good name for themselves, and be models for younger children coming after them,” she disclosed.
As for children who cannot afford her fees, Yuba said: “Although the Distinct Kids Club offers fee-based programmes to sustain our initiatives, we are conscious of the financial limitations of some families that may hinder their children from getting trained by us. To that effect, we greatly subsidise the fee for such underprivileged children. Additionally, we offer free online training programmes for parents and children from time to time, as well as tonnes of free lessons on our social media pages.
“Furthermore, we volunteer our services to some organisations that are passionate about helping children acquire relevant life skills. In all, we aim to ensure that financial constraints do not hinder children from acquiring the qualitative literacy skills they need to thrive in our ever-evolving world.”
In November, 2023, Yuba will be hosting a programme, ‘Distinct Kids Showcase and Award Ceremony,’ to celebrate the remarkable achievements of children who have excelled in honing their skills in public speaking, demonstrating outstanding confidence and poise at a young age.
“By showcasing these young talents, we hope to inspire parents, guardians, and organisations to support the effective training of children to develop their eloquence and communication skills. The event aims to elevate awareness of the importance of literacy and encourage a culture of excellence in communication among Nigerian children. These children are the future of our nation, and it is only right that we lay a solid foundation for them and support their growth,” she further explained.
The Literacy Sphere will be four years in a few months. Yuba, while sharing some of her success stories, posited that, several children who have participated in her programmes have experienced significant improvements in their communication skills.
This success did not come without challenges, as Yuba revealed that, her first challenge was reaching a large number of people with her programmes, especially, since the business was launched in the heat of the lockdown caused by the Coronavirus.
“I was able to overcome this challenge by learning how to create and market digital products. Another challenge I encountered was expanding my online course offerings and effectively reaching a global audience while maintaining quality. That was quite a challenge for me, but by investing in scalable e-learning platforms, localisation to cater to diverse markets, and strategic marketing to reach and engage learners worldwide, I was able to overcome it.
“One last challenge I have had to deal with was attracting and retaining qualified instructors, support staff, and administrative talent. Dealing with that hasn’t been easy, but offering competitive compensation packages, providing professional development opportunities, fostering a positive workplace culture, and encouraging ongoing communication and feedback within team has kept us sailing smoothly,” she disclosed.
Looking ahead, Yuba said The Literacy Sphere envisions a more extensive network of literacy programs and initiatives that reach even more children in Nigeria.
Education And Career
Yuba acquired a Bachelor of Agrucultual Technology from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, but her interest in teaching was piqued during her National Youth Service in 2010.
She went on to acquire a professional diploma in Education, and honed her teaching skills from various institutions both locally and internationally, including The TEFL Academy, Dublin Ireland, which qualifies her to teach English in all countries of the world.
She is a member of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, as well as the Association of Diction Coaches of Nigeria.
Yuba boasts a teaching experience that spans over a decade. However, she launched out into the digital space during the lockdown on account of COVID-19 pandemic, birthing The Literacy Sphere, and later on the Distinct Kids Club.
Both organisations are playing a pivotal role in advancing and promoting literacy skills among Nigerian citizens, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of literacy education in Nigeria.