About 75% of children in Nigeria—aged seven to 14 years—cannot read a simple sentence or solve a basic math problem. “Education in the mother tongue is a key factor for inclusion and quality learning, and it also improves learning outcomes and academic performance,” according to UNESCO.
Building on these findings, WhatsApp has partnered with Greek-Nigerian basketballer, Giannis Antetokounmpo to provide children e-books in local Nigerian languages, starting with Igbo. This “impact partnership” will be implemented by NABU, a tech-enabled publisher of multilingual children’s books.
Growing up in Greece, Giannis’ mother sang him Igbo lullabies to keep him connected to his Nigerian roots. This is what has inspired him to leverage his role as WhatsApp’s first-ever global ambassador to preserve local languages in the country. “With a vision of preserving his own culture for his children, Giannis and his family foundation, CAFF, aim to help families across Nigeria and the Nigerian diaspora share and pass on their culture through NABU’s ebooks,” according to Tanyella Allison, CEO of NABU.
“This partnership means free storybooks for all kids, this also means a bridge to pass our culture to the diaspora,” says Olushola Aromokun, country manager at NABU Nigeria. Prior to launching in Nigeria, NABU was operational in four African countries; Rwanda, DRC, Cameroon, and Kenya.
In commemoration of the International Literacy Day last Friday, NABU launched its inaugural series of custom ebooks in both Igbo and English, as part of the partnership with Giannis and WhatsApp. The series includes 20 books which are currently available on the NABU free app.
The digital publisher said it executed the production of the first books in collaboration with 50 local illustrators and 20 “highly skilled creatives”. In the coming months, NABU will launch books in Hausa, Yoruba, and other Nigerian languages.
Multilingual education based on the mother tongue empowers all learners to fully take part in society. — UNESCO
In May, London-based edtech and media publishing company Kunda Kids raised $700,000 to achieve a similar goal as Giannis, WhatsApp, and NABU. “Our children deserve to learn more about Africa's rich and diverse heritage, and it is our ambition to provide quality stories in various formats to children around the world,” Louisa Olafuyi, co-founder at Kunda Kids, says.