Students in Nigeria are expected to write clearly and legibly by third grade of primary school. While Nelson Handwriting is popular in books targeted to private schools, handwriting styles adopted by public school students are heavily influenced by the habits of their parents and teachers.

Responsibility for education is shared among the federal, state, and local governments in Nigeria. While the Federal Ministry of Education, regulates and ensures its overall quality, local authorities manage the implementation of state-controlled policies regarding public education and state schools. The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) monitors the country’s primary education.

The education system is divided into kindergarten or pre-primary (5 years old), primary education (6–12 years old), secondary education, divided into lower (12–15 years old) and upper levels (15–18 years old), and tertiary education. Pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education are together known as “basic education”, and are compulsory. Despite the mandate for compulsory basic education, school enrolment remains low in Nigeria. Both public and private schools exist, with public education funded by the government, emphasising accessibility, while private institutions operate on different financial models.

Samples of student handwriting exercises, based on the British Nelson Handwriting model, in private schools. Courtesy of Adebike Adenuga, 2023.

The last iteration of the Nigerian National Curriculum Framework was published in 2013 by the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC). It places emphasis on literacy in the early years of education. In 2000, the National Reading Panel placed writing as a transversal skill, intertwined with phonics and spelling. While no specific guidelines or models for handwriting are specified in the curriculum, by the third year of primary education, students are expected to recognise and understand the use of uppercase letters and punctuation marks, as well as copy passage in clear, legible handwriting that has proper inter-letter and inter-word spacing. In the absence of clear directions, students mostly end up mimicking the handwriting style of their teachers and parents.

In Nigeria, there is an emphasis on students receiving instruction in the language they hear and use every day. This poses a challenge in a country with limited resources and great linguistic diversity. Apart from four widely spoken languages — Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and English — there are hundreds of regional languages as well as dialects. As a result teacher training and educational resources are required for several languages.

Role of book publishers & aid organisations

International book publishers and aid organisations play a prominent role in shaping handwriting education in Nigeria.

Books from major publishing houses such as University Press plc (formerly Oxford University Press Nigeria, founded 1949), Longman Nigeria plc, Macmillan Nigeria Publishers Ltd, and Evans Brothers (Nigeria Publishers) Ltd, strengthen British influence, which already exists as a result of colonisation. Their books, usually targeted towards private schools, commonly feature Nelson’s Handwriting, a progressive, three-step approach to handwriting instruction, originally developed by Alexander Inglis, Edward H. Gibson, and Douglas M. McIntosh in 1962. It should also be noted that this method is published by the Oxford University Press today. There are also independent Nigerian publishers, such as Adebike Adenuga, Yusuf Owolabi and Sunday Abbah, that contribute to this landscape.

In the past, before the widespread use of computers, there was greater emphasis on handwriting. Today while private schools, with more resources, may adopt foreign models like Nelson Handwriting, public schools face financial constraints, impacting their ability to prioritise handwriting education. Given these circumstances, the handwriting style learned by students is often influenced by the habits of their parents and teachers, and they end up mimicking what they see around them.

In this context, the book series Mu Karanta!, or Let’s Read!, an early-grade textbook designed for primary school education in Nigeria, stands out. It was created with the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Northern Education Initiative Plus programme. Northern Education Initiative Plus program is an ongoing project to produce textbooks in local languages in Nigeria. According to Lydia Ezihe Onuoha, the project was initiated in 2021 and its aims to create books and train teachers in Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba alongside English, with support from international development partners, including FHI 360, FCDO PLANE, DAI Global, Save the Children, and USAID. The project has produced exercise books featuring guidelines and letter samples in print script using the typeface Andika, which is designed by SIL International, and is freely available on Google fonts.


  • Andika [WWW Document], 2014. URL (accessed 11.30.23).

  • Moyinoluwa, T., 2015. Implementation Of the Revised 9-Year Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) In the Northcentral Nigeria: A Monitor of Benue State. IOSR Journal of Research & Method in Education 5, 67–72.

  • Mu Karanta! Let’s Read! Guide to coaching and professional learning communities, 2016.

  • National Examinations Council [WWW Document], n.d. URL (accessed 3.4.23).

  • NERDC, 2013. National Policy on Education – Federal Republic of Nigeria.

  • Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council – NERDC Curriculum [WWW Document], n.d. URL (accessed 3.5.23).

  • Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council – NERDC Curriculum [WWW Document], n.d. URL (accessed 3.5.23).

  • Obioma, G., Nworgu, B.G., Owodunni, A.S., Emenike, N., Thomas, A.O., 2014. Teachers Guide for the Revised 9-Year Basic Education Curriculum, Basic Science & Technology.

  • Primary and secondary education – Nigeria | Nuffic [WWW Document], n.d. URL (accessed 11.30.23).

  • Udofia, N.-A., 2021. The New Educational Curriculum in Nigeria. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Education.

  • [WWW Document], n.d. URL (accessed 11.30.23).

Would you like to contribute to this project, or get in touch with us?

Please drop us a line by filling this form. We’ll be happy to hear from you.

Contact Form