Early childhood learning improves later life chances
by STEPHEN ONYEKWELU
April 10, 2017 | 12:32 pm| | | Start Conversation
Bunmi, 28, ticked off the last item on her to do list for day, it was 6pm. She has been running her fashion shop diligently for the past five years and satisfied she has come thus far, given her humble beginnings on a farm, in a rural area. She never had the opportunity of receiving early childhood support and care. It was luxury her parents could not afford.
Situated at the intersection of two busy streets, with high human traffic, her fashion shop boasts of three employees and net weekly revenue of over N250, 000. But something always worries her; the fate of her little children ages three and one. Bunmi has come to realise that her chances in life were determined to a great extent by the nature and nurture of the environment in which grew up. She desperately wants something different for her children, in order to improve their chances in life.
Care and support received by a child in terms of good health, nutrition and psychological care and protection are crucial in the formation and development of intelligence, personality and social behavior, experts say.
Findings from neuroscience, developmental psychology, education, and economics indicate that the earliest years of life are the most effective time to improve the lives of disadvantaged children.
In 2000, Nigeria along with other 164 countries at World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal pledged to a global commitment to provide quality basic education for all children, youths and adults by 2015. However, observations indicate that not much has been done in the area of pre-primary education in Nigeria despite the global commitment.
“You should start developing the child pretty much from birth. You already have brain capacity you would need as adult by age five. It is not going to increase that much in your lifetime after that. So you have this brand new brain, with the ability to do so much but has not yet been trained to do anything as yet so much” said Omy Itsueli, founder/CEO, Rainbow Manor, an early childhood care centre in Victoria Island, Lagos.
Itsueli added “Ten, fifteen years ago, we did not have the information that the brain was this capable, at that age, so people did not pay much attention to this critical window in human capital development.”
Early childhood has been defined as a period of life between 0 to 8 years of age. This is the period of greatest growth and development, when the brain develops most rapidly, almost at its fullest. It is a period when walking, talking, self-esteem, vision of the world and moral foundations are established. Research on brain development attests to the importance of key mental, physical and social capabilities. If these fundamental capabilities are not well established from the start, and especially if neurological damage occurs, the learning potential is adversely affected. Childhood education often focuses on children learning through play.
In a bid to give the Nigerian child this early start, the Federal Government (FGN) in 2009 conducted a survey on Early Child Care and Development Education (ECCDE), which reported a wide disparity between the expected and actual enrolments. The expected enrolment in ECCDE was 22 million based on the population of 2006 but the actual enrollment was 2.02 million, leaving 19.98 million out of school.
From the foregoing, it was obvious that, this 2.02 million enrolment was what the private schools could absorb. Based on this obvious gap, a directive was given to State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) to established pre-primary schools in each of the public primary schools in their respective states, this decision, was in line with the UBE acts of 2004 (FGN, 2009).
Moreover, five percent of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) intervention fund was set aside for provision of pre-primary education in Nigeria (UBE Act, 2004). With this, the Government is now directly responsible for pre-primary education. This constitutes a major step in the right direction in the provision of good early childhood education to all Nigerian Children.
However, the concern is how effective the programmes that are being implemented at the grass root. Proper and effective educational programme evaluation must be carried out to determine the predetermined objectives of programmes.
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