A woman weaves her fingers through the full, dark hair of another woman seated in front of her. But her eyes are not on the hair she’s braiding, they are on the novel spread beside her, which she is reading. She neither speaks nor understands a word of the English language. But she reads and enjoys novels so much that she wouldn’t stay away from them even while plaiting a customer’s hair. This is because these novels are written in Hausa, her own language, which she speaks, understands, and reads perfectly.
This scene isn’t uncommon in northern Nigeria. There are many, many Hausa women who read and write the Hausa language very fluently, but who are unable to read text in English, or speak the English language. According to mainstream perceptions, these women are “illiterates.”
But the Lorewa Academy, a digital learning platform designed specifically for women like these, disagrees.
The site, an initiative of the online platform Sapphital Ltd, launched on 12 March 2021, in Abuja. It is entirely run in the Hausa language. It provides a wide array of courses where Hausa-speaking women can enroll to be educated.
Some of the courses are on Agribusiness, Personal Development, and Entrepreneurship. While some require a fee, others are free. The fees range from $5 to $20.
The academy was founded by Eberechi Okereke, who runs a media company in Abuja and describes herself as a female Ed-Tech Founder. The idea came to her in May 2020 during the COVID-imposed lockdown, after she and her team launched Sapphital Ltd.
“I was thinking what I can do for women and make it exclusive for them, but what’s going to be the differentiating factor?” she told Folio Nigeria. “The reason for centering the North is that my office is here in Abuja.”
The name “Lorewa” comes from “lore” and “Arewa.” “Lore” represents education transferred from person to person, and “Arewa” is the Hausa word for “North” and is used to refer to Northern Nigeria.
“We are on a transformational journey to take education to millions of girls and women across the northern part of Nigeria,” team member Nafisa Abdulazeez told Folio Nigeria.
The team is comprised mostly of women and all the instructors are women. It has Khadijah Muhammed as creative director, and boasts of notable Northern forces, such as the poet and motivational speaker Maryam Bukar (popularly known as Alhanislam) who is a co-founder, an Executive Director, and a course instructor.
Others include video editor Aisha Tajudeen, course and Web translator Aisha Bashir, instructor managers Hidaya Aminu and Amina Balarabe, social media manager Zara Ingawa, and Femi Afolabi for the digitalization of courses. The instructors are from Nassarawa, Kano, and Kaduna.
“We are also in the process of turning all the courses into audio for those who learn better through audio,” Eberechi Okereke said.