By Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim
Marwana Umar, a graduate of Geology at Federal University Birnin Kebbi, has come a long since he first handled an internet-enabled device. On this day, in Jega, Kebbi State, he’s applying the finishing touches to new communication protocols he set up to ease virtual traffic between a number of computers.
He mastered this skill while enrolled as a student at Engausa Global Technology Hub, an initiative on a mission to build the next generation of digital experts by using the Hausa language to teach programming, video editing, blogging, graphics design, software development, social media literacy, and digital marketing.
“Sincerely speaking, I have benefited from the training because learning in my native tongue made the knowledge easier to assimilate,” Umar said, displaying a subtle sense of pride.
Several factors impede education and its advancement in Nigeria. One of those challenges is language. Research has shown that children who learn in their mother tongue are more engaged in class activities and complete their basic education. Where language is a barrier to learning, students are more likely to drop out of school.
In fact, UNESCO says 40% of children worldwide don’t have access to education in a language they speak or comprehend. This reality has influenced critical stakeholders to advocate for policymakers to adopt different languages as the primary medium of communication in schools. One such call demands the Nigerian government to adopt the Hausa Language as a regional language to promote education in northern Nigeria but no major action has been taken to actualize it.
This is despite the fact that the Hausa language is the most spoken in Nigeria, and is considered an important lingua franca in the West and Central African continent, with about 50 million speakers either as a first language or second language.
It’s this gap that Engausa Global Technology hub is seeking to address. The word Engausa is derived from the combination of ‘English and Hausa’ indicating the merging of the two languages. Not far from its meaning, the tech hub not only advances the digital skills of young people, but also drives skills acquisition such as access control, solar installation, intercom, computer networking, CCTV installation, electrical fencing, and coding, all taught in Hausa language.
In collaboration with the National Information Technology Agency (NITDA), Engausa has already trained over 1700 technology apprentices and has recorded 50 technological enterprises owned and managed by some of the Engausa graduates. Recently, “another 1353 students were trained.” Habu Ringim, CEO of Engausa Global Hub states while explaining some of the impacts of their projects.
An ICT expert, Abdulrahman Muhammed, the CTO of Strano Labs Nigeria Limited, is of the opinion that Engausa is an initiative with promise.
“There is a huge gap in digital literacy, especially here (in northern Nigeria). Teaching digital skills in the Hausa would make it simpler for many curious learners,” Muhammed said.
He further stressed the need for the adoption of people’s first language as a language of instruction in schools across Nigeria. This, he believed, will reduce the struggle to understand English first before one understands what is being taught.
“In our society, people suffer before reaching the peak of their careers. If one could start at the age of 10, by the time he reaches 20, he is already an expert compared to one starting at the age of 20. That is the beauty of it. See how Facebook’s owner started and how he is doing today,” he concluded.
For Abdulmalik Mustapha, a young resident of Kano learning computer networking in Hausa Language has made it easier for him to comprehend and he hopes to pursue an advanced course soon.
“When I heard about the hub on the radio about the work they do, I couldn’t believe it until I visited them to ascertain the real situation. After my visitation, three of my brothers were registered along with me to undergo the training.
“Although I am currently studying computer science, I still hope to return and obtain a higher certification from the hub on computer networking for nothing but the use of the local language. The usage of Hausa during practicals and explanations eased my struggle to comprehend both the language and the course. I only focused on the course because I already mastered the language,” he told Social Voices.
It is not free from shortcomings
Engausa Global Tech Hub only operates in Kano State. The mission of improving learning for Hausa-speaking children will be achieved if its operations reach the remaining 18 Hausa-speaking northern states, a challenge the initiative hopes to overcome by leveraging collaborative opportunities.
Furthermore, the payment of the registration fee may hinder students from low-income families from enrolling and benefitting from some of their programs. All the graduates who spoke to Social Voices were either sponsored by their parents or teachers.
“People don’t need a degree either. These skills are important. They don’t distract one from pursuing a degree. I know young people working virtually and earning,” Ringim said while emphasizing the need for sponsorship and collaboration across Northern states.
This story was produced in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch through the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.