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Pupils at school

Cast in stone – teaching sustainably in the developing world

Counting with stones goes back thousands of years while using mobile communications could not be more modern. Traditional teaching aids can cost nothing at all but technology can also be designed to be affordable for developing countries. We are harnessing both old and new methods to equip teachers in Nigeria with the skills they need to be effective educators.

Department for International Development
Education consultancy

School teacher in Nigeria
Sunusi, a local teacher
Sunusi, a local teacher Using simple techniques has enabled Sunusi to gain better control of his classroom.


Developing countries need good teachers to educate people out of poverty and drive positive change in society. Creating accessible, sustainable systems for teacher training is particularly difficult in countries with vast expanses of land and limited infrastructure. In Nigeria, although many states are trying to produce and support competent teachers, learning outcomes still remain very low. Many children do not attain the competency levels in literacy and numeracy that they need to progress with their education by the time they leave primary school.


The UK aid-funded Teacher Development Programme (TDP) is piloting the use of low-cost mobile phones and tablet computers – dubbed the ‘trainer in the pocket’. We lead the consortium managing the TDP, which is a six-year initiative operating in five northern states of Nigeria. Teachers have access to a wide range of content, including videos and audio stories, to make lessons more interesting. For example, by connecting their phone to an amplifier, teachers can play rhymes that teach phonics, a method of reading that improves the association between symbols and sounds. Additional digital content for self-study improves teachers’ subject knowledge and pedagogic skills. Alongside the latest technology, TDP instructors have trained a cadre of state and local government based trainers to guide teachers on how to conduct simple but effective lessons by rediscovering ‘no cost, low cost’ learning materials: stones can be used to teach addition and subtraction of two-digit numbers, for example.


With new skills, teachers will be able to manage a classroom more effectively and think creatively to deliver interactive and inspiring lessons in English, mathematics, science and technology. By 2019, it is expected TDP will have improved the skills of 62,000 teachers, 816 teacher educators and 4000 student teachers, enhancing the learning outcomes and life chances of more than 2M young Nigerians every year.

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