I did an assignment for my masters programme that I thought to share here
SCHOOL OF POSTGRADUATE STUDIES,
UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS,
FACULTY OF EDUCATION,
DEPARTMENT OF ARTS & SOCIAL SCIENCES EDUCATION.
COURSE CODE: ASE 811
COURSE TITLE: EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
LECTURER: DR SaRAH SOPEKAN
Early Childhood Education, the policy and the Nigerian child
GROUP 1 MEMBERS
OLORUNNISOLA MARUFAH ADEOLA – 071324033
LASISI ABIMBOLA MOJISOLA – 071324022
Education is the right of every child and must not be denied it for any reason. This has been the assertion of the World Summit on the state of global children, which has led to the inclusion and expansion of early childhood care and education in the global Education for All programme (EFA). This work is to examine the policies on ground and give recommendations that could make the educational programme a reality in the nation in the interest of the Nigerian children.
Early Childhood Education, the policy and the Nigerian child
According to the oxford dictionary, a child is a young human being below the age of puberty or legal age of majority.
In recent years, researchers have learned that the human brain develops the vast majority of its neurons, and is at its most receptive to learning, between birth and three years of age. In fact, the intake of new information is critical to the formation of active neural pathways (Shonkoff & Phillips 2000). A child’s early years lay the foundation for all that is to come.
Research linking early intervention to both cognitive and socio-emotional gains has fueled the proliferation of early childhood programmes since the early part of the twentieth century. The last four decades in particular have produced many new practices and principles for use in the classroom with young children, as well as countless books, videos, and activities to enrich the home environment. In fact, several Nigerian states have announced plans to implement universal preschool programmes (Obiweluozor, 2015).
Early Childhood Education
A country is as developed as its education and the foundation of such education is the early years, the bedrock upon which all other levels of education sit. In line with the National Policy on Education, the term Early Childhood Care Development and Education (ECCDE) has been adopted. In order fully understand the ECCDE concepts, let’s break down the components.
Care, which starts from conception, is the action taken to ensure the protection and support for the health, nutrition, physical, psycho-social, cognitive, emotional, spiritual and moral development of the child. This involves the provision of stimulating and safe environment, adequate and balanced diet, affectionate interaction and other actions that respect the rights of the child. Care is essential in the all round development of the child.
Development is the gradual process of change in the child which is exhibited physically, mentally, socio-emotionally, spiritually and morally. Developmental change may take place as a result of genetically-controlled processes of maturation or consequences of environmental factors and learning. In most cases, development involves an interaction between the two.
Education can be defined in this context as the systematic way of acquiring knowledge, skills, values and desirable norms, which takes place most commonly in a formal school system. Learning during the early childhood development stage commences from birth. During this period, the child’s experiences help him/her to acquire knowledge, skills, habits and values. Therefore, attempts to bring children at an early age to the formal school system calls for special attention on the form of knowledge that are most appropriate to their level of development.
Therefore, early childhood care and education (ECCE), as defined by UNESCO, is the “holistic development of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs in order to build a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing.” (Lietbag & Walton, 2018).
A common practice in most modern societies, another perspective is given by National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) which defines early childhood education to include any part- or full-day group program in a center, school, or home that serves children from birth through age eight, including children with special developmental and learning needs. This definition includes programs in child care center, both for profit and nonprofit; private and public prekindergarten programs; Head Start programs; family child care; and kindergartens, primary grades, and before- and after-school programs in elementary schools.
Early childhood education is also defined as the training given to children from birth and age 8 in order to prepare children for primary education and beyond.
As education begins from the moment the child is brought home from the hospital (Fafunwa, 1967), Maduewesi (1999) refers to early childhood care and education as the semiformal education offered to children who have not yet reached the statutory age of beginning primary school.
In New Zealand, Early childhood education is the education given to younger learners before the age of entering primary education (6 years) in preparing their entry into primary school.
The Federal Government of Nigeria’s National Policy on Education provides that early childhood education in 2 parts. The first is early child care development and education (ECCDE) and the second is pre-primary education. ECCDE is the care, protection, stimulation and learning promoted in children from age 0 to 4 years in a crèche or nursery. Pre-primary education is the one-year education given to children aged 5 prior to their entering primary school (FGN NPE, 2013).
Early childhood education is a branch of education theory which relates to the teaching of young children (formally and informally) up until the age of about eight. Infant/toddler education, a subset of early childhood education, denotes the education of children from birth to age two (Makinwa-Adebusoye, 1981).
Early childhood education is a type of education provided for children 0-3 years in Day Care Centres and for children 3years to less than 6 years in Nursery schools as defined by Uzodinma & Akinware (2001) in Subuola (2017).
However, according to Obiweluozor (2015), opinions differ on the effectiveness/appropriateness of ECE as she quoted Robinson and Robinson (1968) who argued that the love and warmth of a mother is more important than any educational programme.
HISTORY OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
Early childhood education can be traced to the efforts of prominent European education experts like: John Amos Comenius (1590-1690), J. J. Rousseau (1782-1788), Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1748-1827) and Friedrich Froebel (1782-1751). These experts championed the right of children to early education in order to help students’ develop their full potentials (Obiweluozor, 2015).
Nations provide for the care and education of their young children in vastly different ways. Although some provide extensive services and others quite meager ones, all nations approach early childhood education according to their visions of childhood and their values for young children (organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2001).
Education before primary/basic school is given different connotations – early childhood education, pre-school, nursery education (Baker, 1973) “ota akara”, ”Jeleosinmi”, the crèche, the nursery and the kindergarten (Osanyin, 2001).
Early Childhood Education and Care in America
Historically, America’s forefathers built a nation, and in effect education of young children, around the dual values of family primary and privacy. Many of the effort to care for young child emanated from the private sector. Evangelical women worked to improve the lot of the poor and disenfranchised and established infant schools that enabled mothers to work (Omotuyole, 2016).
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) in the USA includes a wide range of part-day, full-school-day, and fullwork-day programmes in both the public and the private sectors with an emphasis on the “care” component of ECEC and at other times with stress on “education” or with equal attention to both.
In America, kindergartens are preschool programs for the year before primary school entry, largely for 5 year olds. However, programme content varies greatly across states (Day, 1988).
Early Childhood Education in England
Early childhood care and education for young children began to emerge in England in the late 18th century on a voluntary and philanthropic basis. In 1816, the first nursery school in the United Kingdom was established at New Lanark in Scotland by Robert Owen (1771-1858) for the children of cotton mills workers.
Although Owen’s ideas were ahead of his time, his example stimulated a significant interest in early childhood education and the founding of a number of infants schools in Britain. The main principle of traditional ECE in Britain was child-centred
Early Childhood Education in Nigeria
In Nigeria, organized education of the child below primary school age did not receive official recognition until very recently when it received the attention it deserved. The concept of infant schools was introduced in Nigeria by the missionaries in the early 20th century when such schools were set up in the Western and Eastern regions of Nigeria. Initially, it was limited to the children of the elites but as time went by the opportunity was made available to those who could afford it. Those who associated with the missionaries enjoyed the patronage of this education. Schools for the under six year’s olds were organized by the wives of missionaries for the children of foreign and local dignitaries (Omotuyole, 2016). Early Childhood education in the form of nursery school or pre-primary education as we know it today in Nigeria is largely a post-colonial development. The semblances of it during the colonial era were the Kindergarten and infant classes, which consisted of groups of children considered not yet ready for primary education. As grouping for instruction in schools was not age-based during that period, some children aged six or even more, could be found in some of the infant classes. With the phasing out of infant classes, some parents began to feel the need for nursery schools. During that period, (pre-independence) all efforts for provision of early childhood education were confined to the voluntary sector and received little or no support from the government (Tor-Anyiin, 2008).
The 1969 national curriculum conference was the very first time mentioned was made of formal school for education of children between the ages of 3 and 5.They were to be enrolled in nursery and kindergarten classes to prepare them for lower primary level of education. This declaration eventually led to the emphasis placed on the preparatory role of preschool institutions (Omotuyole, 2016).
It was for the first time in 2004 with the introduction of the 4th edition of the National Policy on Education that the importance and need for early childhood education, form birth, was given official recognition and linked with the child’s educational performance in primary school. Gradually, early childhood institution stayed, and by 1992, Nigeria had about 8,300 ECE institutions and the number keeps growing (Federal Government of Nigeria/UNICEF 1993).
Nowadays, early childhood educational institutions are located in various places and buildings campuses of universities and Colleges, premises of some industries and business organizations, church premises, residential buildings with unprecedented expansion owing to the high demand for early childhood care and education by parents (Ejieh, 2006).
IMPORTANCE OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
According to Osanyin (2001), the tremendous amount of affection devoted to the subject of early childhood education for young children in the last few decades stem from the complexities that typify the nature of the child.
“This is your feeder system, the kinds of experiences that are accruing in these early settings matter” (Liebtag & Walton, 2018).
The rapid physical, mental, social, creative and emotional development associated with the period called early childhood should gravitate any responsive society towards meaningful programme of intervention in realization that their actions or inactions as individuals and collectively as society during these formative years can either enhance or impede a child’s success in learning (Bredekamp et al, 1992).
Some of the points are highlighted thus:
-Catching the early train
Early childhood is a crucial stage of life in terms of a child’s physical, intellectual, emotional and social development. Growth of mental and physical abilities progress at an astounding rate and a very high proportion of learning takes place from birth to age six. It is a time when children particularly need high quality personal care and learning experiences (Gomtas, 2017).
Brain development usually begins three weeks after conception. At birth a newborn has about 100 billion brain cells (neurons) and trillions of connections (synapses). Early childhood experiences exert a remarkable impact and physically determine how the brain is wired. While growth continues, a single neuron can connect with as many as 15,000 other neurons. A three year old child has twice as many synapses as an adult. Those synapses that are not used wither away in a process called pruning. At about 10, the brain begins to radically prune extra synapses and make order of the tangled circuitry of the brain. New synapses grow throughout life and adults continue to learn but they do not master new skills so quickly or recover from setbacks so easily (Eastman, 2006).
Thus, children taught at an early age usually benefit in improved social skills, better grades, and enhanced attention spans (Gormley, Ted, Phillips & Dawson, 2005). According to early childhood education research journal, most capacity of language skill of learning vocabulary, which is a foundation for literacy, develops by ages of three (Bouchard & Gilles, 2011 in Ishola, 2016).
Development in early childhood affects physical activities as well as emotional and cognitive development. Children actually start to realize their identity in first eight years of life through the capacity of imagination and self-image of gender roles (Rolnick & Grunewald, 2003).
According to Gomtas (2017), ECE enables children to improve on their self-confidence since they are given opportunity to interact with their peers and adults too. It enhances independence and helps curb the negative tendencies in children through group activities as children learn to share and co-operate with others instead of developing the selfish tendencies. Children’s interactions with their peers and adults help to widen their scope of understanding and they also gain mastery of the world around them. Fafunwa, (1967) emphasized that early childhood education is vital to the child, parents and society because it permits smooth transition from home to school, because it enables the child to feel free to interact with other people outside his immediate family members. The pre-primary school helps to sharpen the children’s cognitive domain through learning rhymes and songs; while playing on the slides and swings help in physical development and build their muscles. Structured play with building blocks and puzzles, baby dolls, and teddy bears helps in emotional development of the children (Shrestha, 2006).
Children who interact well with other children in a preschool or playgroup setting can practice skills shown to them. They identify being at school as a pleasant opportunity to see friends and to have fun. They learn which behaviours will attract friends and which ones are likely to drive friends away. Regular contact with peers in a group setting reduces the stress on first day of school.
Statistical research has shown that children who have experienced early childhood or pre-primary programs are more likely than other children to remain in primary school and achieve good results (UNESCO, 1995).
Early childhood education can impact a child’s academic success and reduce incidences of crime and delinquency, according to Professor W. Steven Barnett, author of “Preschool Education and Its Lasting Effects: Research and Policy Implications,” published by the National Institute for Early Education Research. Children enrolled in early childhood education programs may also receive direct benefits in behaviour, thought processes, socialisation and learning capacity.
The provision of pre-primary education assists working class parents who have no relation or house help to take care of their children while they are at work (Makinwa-Adebusoye, 1981)
Early child education is about honing and moulding the holistic child, which will eventually form the basis of their lifelong journey. One of the many benefits of your child receiving an early childhood education is the opportunity to participate in early childhood screening. This screening is provided for 3- to 5-year-olds and tests things like health, cognitive development, speech, vision, hearing, coordination, emotional skills and social skills, Screenings can identify any development or health issues that need to be taken into consideration, to prevent learning delays (Rolnick, 2003).
A note of caution
However, there is no one-size fits all instruction best suited for all children. While some children benefit immensely from pre-school, it may not be the best educational setting for other children. In most cases, children benefit most by receiving educational instruction from their parents. Parents must, therefore, evaluate a child’s unique personality before determining which program is best suited for a child since not all programmes benefit children the same way (Obiweluozor, 2015.).
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND POLICY
The major essence of policies is to help formulate goals, purpose and aims of education. It is from the policies that academic goals are brought forth to define into achievable goals which will be translated to topics in the curriculum for teachers to implement.
Policies guide educational practice. What teachers
Policies bring about uniformity in the field. For a beneficial programme of import on so many levels, guiding policy is needed for practitioners to be clear about what to expect of children in specific measurable goals as well as proper coordination of activities.
The effort to make Early Childhood Education (ECE) effective, functional and appropriate rests on all and sundry but the largest onus is on the government of the given society. A programme can only function if the government, in collaboration with other stakeholders, provides the work plan for the implementation of this stage of education. A part of this work plan answers the questions why, what, how and how-to-be-sure of what to teach, which is collectively termed the curriculum. Another important part of the work plan is the necessary policies to ensure uniformity, enforcement and ease of implementation of the programme (Ishola, 2016).
Terry (1977) considers that “a policy is an overall guide that gives the general limits and direction in which administrative action will take place”.
National Policy on Education (NPE)
The foremost policy concerned with ECE in Nigeria is the National Policy on Education (published in 1977 and revised through 1981, 1998, 2004, 2007 and the 6th edition of 2013) (Unveiling Africa, 2017).
With early childhood (pre-primary) as one of the 4 levels of education in Nigeria, the National Policy on Education spells out the philosophy and objectives of Education. The Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) is the minimum teaching qualification. All teachers are expected to register with the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (Action Programme on Education, 2004 – 2005).
The provision for ECE in the 2013 NPE is in two folds- Early child care development and education and pre-primary education. This in accordance with the UBE Act 2003 programme which made provision for every public primary school to have a preprimary school linkage to cater for children, and this resulted in increased government ownership and participation in ECE provisions (UNESCO-IBE, 2006)
Early child care development and education (ECCDE) is the care, protection, stimulation and learning promoted from birth to 4 years of age in a crèche or nursery. The purpose is to
Effect a smooth transmission from the home to the school;
Prepare the child for the primary level of education;
Provide adequate care, supervision and security for the children while their parents are at work;
Inculcate social, moral norms and values;
Inculcate in the child the spirit of enquiry and creativity through the exploration of nature, the environment, art, music and the use of toys, etc;
Develop a sense of co-operation and team spirit;
Stimulate in the child good habits, including good health habits; and
Teach the rudiments of numbers, letters, colours, shapes, forms etc. through play.
Although the Nigerian federal government is not directly involved in the establishment of day-care centers and nursery schools (this is mainly provided by private entrepreneurs), it maintains oversight for the:
Provision and distribution of policy guidelines for the establishment and management of pre-primary institutions;
Production and development of appropriate national curriculum and textbooks in Nigerian languages;
Maintaining caregiver infant ratio of 1:10/1:25 for crèche and nursery respectively; and
Approval of relevant supplementary reading materials and teachers’ instruction manual
among other responsibilities.
Pre-primary education is the one-year education given to children aged 5 prior to their entering primary school. The purpose is exact same as that of ECCDE
To achieve them, the government has saddled itself with the responsibility of funding this 1-year programme, and, among other duties, also to ensure that relevant Ministries, Departments, Agencies and Development Partners synergise for proper implementation due to the multi-sectoral nature of the one-year education (Obiweluozor, 2015).
Universal Basic Education (UBE)
Motivated by a concern to drastically reduce illiteracy within the shortest possible time and its desire to achieve Education for All (EFA) target and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Universal Basic Education (UBE) was launched in Nigeria on September 30, 1999, by the Nigerian Federal Government. The UBE Act that gives the programme a legal backing was promulgated in 2004 and consequently, a commission – Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) – was set up to coordinate the implementation of the programme. The Federal Government also committed 2% of its Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) to the implementation of the programme.
According to the implementation guidelines released in February, 2000 by the Federal Ministry of Education, the specific objectives of the programme are to:
develop in the entire citizenry a strong consciousness for Education and a strong commitment to its vigorous promotion;
provide a free, universal basic education for every Nigerian child of school-going age;
cater for the learning needs of young persons who for one reason or another, have had to interrupt their schooling through appropriate forms of complementary approaches to the provision of and promotion of basic education; and,
ensure the acquisition of the appropriate levels of literacy, numeracy, manipulative, communicative and life skills as well as the ethical, moral and civic values needed for laying a solid foundation for life-long learning.
The expanded scope of the Universal Basic Education Act (2004) includes programmes and initiatives for early childhood education and development. The UBE is envisioned to ensure that there is adequate provision for early childhood care and socialization and persons in all manners and conditions of physical, spatial and psychological existence are taken care of (Ajayi, 2000). In this connection, the Compulsory, Free, Universal Basic Education Act of 2004 stipulates that Universal Basic Education encompasses early childhood care and education (ECCE), adult literacy and non-formal education, skills acquisition programmes and the education of special groups such as nomads and migrants, girl-child and women, almajiri, street children and disabled groups (Obong, 2006).
Chapter Two of the Federal Government’s Blueprint on Education (FME, 1999) specifically recognises early childhood and pre-primary education, covering the period from zero to less than six years of age, as one of the components of Basic Education. According to the blueprint, the objectives of early childhood and pre-primary education are to:
ensure that infants and children receive initial parental care;
prepare children in readiness for formal schooling;
provide adequate care and supervision for the children while their parents are at work;
inculcate in infants and children good health habits and personal hygiene;
impart in children the rudiments of numbers, letters, colours, shapes and forms;
socialize and orientate children to positive societal norms and relationships; and,
familiarize children with their physical, social, and cultural environments (FME, 1999).
National Minimum Standards for Early Childcare Centres in Nigeria (NMSECCN)
While the National Policy on Education specifies the guidelines for operating pre-primary and lower primary education in Nigeria; it did not specify the care and support requirements for children. This is a major gap that has left the operation of early childhood care and pre-primary education more in the hands of private operators without adequate guidelines or standards.
In August 2004, the NERDC with the support from UNICEF convened a meeting of experts and stakeholders in early childcare. The result of this effort is the production the National Minimum Standards for Early Childcare Centers in Nigeria. It contains the rationale behind the setting of the minimum standards, the objectives, the strategy to be adopted, the prescribed minimum standards (which cover types of centre, location, ownership and characteristics of an effective centre), stakeholders involvement, supervision, human resources, health care and materials, protection issues and stakeholders’ roles. Thence, over the years, early childcare in Nigeria has metamorphosed from a single sector approach to a multi-sector pursuit, converging interventions in health, nutrition, care, stimulation, protection, and participation of the child (Ishola, 2016).
Some of the National Minimum Standards Requirement for an effective centre
In establishing an effective ECCDE centre, it is important to ensure that the environment is safe, secure and free from excessive noise. An effective centre should have:
play ground and appropriate equipment; fence; well ventilated classroom(s) with enough space adequate for about 20 – 25 (0 – 3 years), 30 – 35 (3 – 5 years) children with flexible sitting arrangement and well decorated with functional pictures; records such as admission register, log book, child folder containing bio-data etc; age appropriate furniture; and, among others, assessment instrument for growth and overall development of the child.
National Policy for Integrated Early Childhood Development in Nigeria (NPIECD)
Analysis of the situation indicated that, to a great extent, the Nigerian child still suffered deprivation from lack of good social services in terms of poor nutrition, health care, and access to safe water and sanitation, general protection from environmental hazards and insecurity. All of these gave justification for the formulation of National Policy for Integrated Early Childhood Development in Nigeria, which was developed and approved in 2006 at a meeting of the National Council on Education (NCE) to guide inter-sectoral interventions on childhood development for ages zero to five years and officially launched in October 2007.
The document features guidelines on the provision of basic services to the child, community support for socio-cultural development, inter-sectoral collaboration and partnership, integration of ECD into Quranic schools, quality assurance, research, monitoring and evaluation, funding and resources mobilisation (Ishola, 2016).
This policy provided early childhood care and development in Nigeria to adopt an integrated approach for the care and support given to children from birth through 5years. This is a holistic approach in which the Federal Ministry of Education collaborates with other ministries including, Health, Environment and Housing, Women Affairs, Information and Communication, Finance, Agriculture, and Water Resources, as well as the National Planning Commission to provide interventions for the cognitive, physical, social, moral, and emotional development of the child (Obiweluozor, 2015).
After 5 years of implementation, the following outcomes should have become manifest:
Full immunization for all children 0-5 years
Reduction in infant and maternal mortality rates
Smooth transition from the home to school.
Increase in primary school enrolment, retention and attainment
Adequate provision for children with special needs (children with physical, language, emotional and learning disabilities, gifted children, children in extreme poverty situations, OVC-orphans and vulnerable children and so on).
Early Childhood Development Standards for Nigeria (ECDS)
Another observed crucial challenge facing preschool education in Nigeria between 2007 and 2013 was the issue of the standard development expected of the children at every stage of the preschool education. It was noticed that many schools, in trying to impress the parents, exposed the children to academic activities meant for older children. This led the Federal Ministry of Education, with assistance from UNICEF, to provide a guide to teachers, parents and other stakeholders in providing learning experiences to children from ages 0 to 5years plus – The Early Childhood Development Standards for Nigeria included early learning/development standards in physical, affective/psychosocial, cognitive and language development. Other areas covered by the policy were food and nutrition, health, water and environmental sanitation, emergency and safety measures, protection issues, gender issues and national values, and consciousness. This policy document was the last provided on early childhood education in Nigeria (Shekarau, 2014).
Education for All (EFA)
The Jomtien World Conference on Education for All which held at Thailand, from March 5 to March 9, 1990 was the foundation of this policy. The Conference was convened jointly by the executive heads UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO and other governments and organisations promoting and protecting the interest of the child, among other duties. Education for All (EFA) is a global movement, adopted by the Dakar Framework in April, 2000 led by UNESCO aiming to meet the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015, contributing to the pursuit of the MDG 3
The Six EFA Goals on education are:
1. Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children;
2. Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to a complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality;
3. Ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes;
4. Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults;
5. Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality; and
6. Improving all aspects of the quality of education, and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy, and essential life skills.
In order to evaluate each country’s progress with regards to EFA, UNESCO developed the Education for All Development Index (EDI). By 2015, the EFA Global Monitoring Report published that only a third of countries reached all the goals with measurable targets.
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (commonly abbreviated as the CRC or UNCRC) is a human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. The Convention defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen, unless the age of majority is attained earlier under national legislation. Compliance is monitored by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Some of the rights of the child in the CRC are
right to live, right to a legally registered name – officially recognized by the government, right to an identity – an official record of who he is, right to get information that is important to their health and well-being, right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of cultural, artistic and other recreational activities, among others.
When the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on November 20, 1989 and in July 1990, the African Union Assembly of Heads of States and Governments adopted the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (CRWC) which Nigeria also signed and subsequently ratified on 23rd July 2003, it was assumed that humanity was appropriately committed to securing its own future.
The uniqueness of the African Charter is that it enjoins State Parties to embrace not only the rights of the child but also the responsibilities towards the child (UNICEF, 2017).
Nigeria signed on to the International Human Rights convention agreement on the rights of child. It was officially passed into law in 2003 by Former President Chief Olusegun Obansanjo as the Children’s Rights Act 2003 (CRA) to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
The law has three primary purposes: to incorporate the rights of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights into the national law, to provide the responsibilities of government agencies associated with the law and to integrate children-focused legislation into one comprehensive law. It also acts as a legislation against Human trafficking since it forbids children from being “separated from … parents against their will, except where it is in the best interests of the child”.
Yet, as of July 2018, the Child Rights Act 2003 has been promulgated into law in 26 states. The states yet to pass the bill into law are Sokoto, Adamawa, Bauchi, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Borno, Gombe, Yobe, and Zamfara (guardian.ng/opinion).
Declaration of the Rights of the Child (DRC)
The Declaration of the Rights of the Child, sometimes known as the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, is an international document promoting child rights, drafted by Eglantyne Jebb and adopted by the League of Nations in 1924, and adopted in an extended form by the United Nations in 1959.
The text of the document, as published by the International Save the Children Union in Geneva on 23 February 1923, is as follows:
The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.
The child that is hungry must be fed, the child that is sick must be nursed, the child that is backward must be helped, the delinquent child must be reclaimed, and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succoured.
The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.
The child must not be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.
The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow men.
This text was endorsed by the League of Nations General Assembly on 26 November 1924 as the World Child Welfare Charter.
The document went through expansion in 1946, expanded to seven in 1948 and ten points in 1959.
POLICY ON INCLUSION
Legal Framework in Support of Inclusion
The World Conference on Special Needs Education held in Salamanca, Spain, June 1994 provided the major impetus for inclusive education.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); Convention Against Discrimination (1960)
International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965)
Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
Convention on the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Worst Forms of Child Labour (1999)
Convention on the Protection and Promoting of Diversity in Cultural Expressions (2005)
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) and the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).
HOW POLICIES AFFECT THE NIGERIAN CHILD
The policies on early childhood education are amazing on paper, numerous as have been highlighted. The documents would have meant a lot if they were practiced. Thus far, there is no known relationship or relevance of these numerous policies as they are not widely known nor implemented in Nigeria (guardian.ng/opinion). The researchers did not come across any study or report on how the policies have improved the lot of the Nigerian child. We did come across many practitioners – teachers, caregivers, school owners, parents even- who have no idea any policies exist besides the 2004 NPE.
Therefore, a full critique of the policies is essential.
CRITIQUE OF THE EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION POLICIES
The goal by the FGN was for the National Policy on Education’s development plan in pre-primary education to be distributed effectively, but there are many flaws in the plans process and implementation as discussed in this section. One major problem was the federal government’s decision to facilitate the objectives of pre-primary education by the granting permission for private establishments of pre-primary education in the country, but not the participation of the public schools in their establishment. Presently there are many ill-equipped, substandard pre-primary schools scattered all over the country. This is as a result of lack of supervision and inspection to ensure that standard and quality are maintained. Therefore, there is a need for the federal, state, and local governments to put measures in place to ensure standards. But can this be achieved when the one-year pre-primary programme in state-owned schools are nothing to write home about? The policy ironically failed in this aspect.
Further, the NPE ensures that the communication medium of early childhood institutions is principally the mother tongue (MT) or language of the immediate community (LIC) and orthography and textbooks of Nigerian languages will be produced to enhance MT and LIC. Ironically, in most of pre-primary schools in Nigeria the medium of instruction is principally the English language. As far as mother tongue instruction is concerned, Emenanjo (2001) notes the value attached to native language as regards to protection, preservation, promotion of Nigerian culture, as well as its role in promoting interethnic unity that enhances human dignity and subsequently helps promote national unity and integration in the country. This policy supported by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and justified in the National Policy on Education. The use of English language for a child to the neglect of his mother tongue has a negative influence on the child’s cultural background which the policy is meant to protect. Contrary to this most parents want their children to be immersed in the English language as early as possible because of the perceived advantages and belief that knowledge of English accelerates the teaching process for children entering the primary and other levels of the educational system. But on the other hand, evidence shows that, if children are taught with their mother tongue, they learn and develop faster intellectually, cognitively, and psychologically (Fafunwa, 1984). The policy has failed in the aspect of language implementation. The question is, does it mean that the teachers teaching those children do not speak their native language? How do we promote culture when our children cannot speak their mother tongue or language of the immediate community? This is for the policy makers to review and address.
In addition, the NPE ensures that the main method of teaching at this level shall be through play and that the curriculum of teacher education is oriented to achieve this. As a result of the government inability to regulate and control private establishment and operation of pre-primary education in the country, some schools employ teachers who are not thoroughly trained to teach. Such people without teaching pedagogy are unable to present the teaching and learning experiences to children in a stimulating, sequential, and logical manner as prescribed (Robinson and Robinson, 1968).
Inadequate data on births and enrolments in early childhood education sector
No sound distribution of resources to teaching and teaching support functions; concentration of resources such as libraries and teaching facilities in urban schools to the neglect of the rural areas due to inaccessibility of the rural areas
Lastly, the input of government in terms of the financial aspect in pre-primary education has been very negligible as stated by Maduewesi (2001). The only time the government financed education at that level was through the Early Child Care (ECC) project of the NERDC which was founded through the collaboration of UNICEF and Federal Government of Nigeria and other international agencies prior to 2001 (Maduewesi 2001).
The National Policy on Education (2004) stipulates that the goals of teacher education shall be to:
produce highly motivated, conscientious and efficient classroom teachers for all levels of our education system; encourage further the spirit of enquiry and creativity in teachers; help teachers to fit into social life of community and the society at large and enhance their commitment to national goals; provide teachers with the intellectual and professional background adequate for their assignment and make them adaptable to changing situations; and, enhance teachers’ commitment to the teaching profession
1. To this end, all the various levels of government should include teachers in policy design and implementation as well as participating stakeholders on issues that affect teachers and teacher education.
2. Recruitment and retention
• Proprietors of educational institutions to comply with the set criteria for recruitment of teachers.
• There should be special incentives for teachers in difficult terrains and approved ‘Teachers’ Salary Scale’ (TSS) should be implemented to ensure the realization of EFA goals by 2015.
• There should be a forum where government and private proprietors meet to discuss teachers’ issues.
All these will make it easy for teachers to be professionals in their job and avoid mediocrity.
3. Inspection and Supervision
There should be effective implementation strategies not just a policy on paper. If the pre-primary education is to benefit from this national policy there is a need for the federal, state, and local governments to ensure that the necessary educational facilities are available in both rural and urban areas. Through the various departments of the Ministries of Education implementation of effective monitoring, supervising, and inspecting of pre-primary school facilities should be mandated. If any of the private entrepreneurs does not meet the national standards or specifications for pre-primary schools, then they should be closed down and their license revoked until the owners meet the quality and standards required to maintain effective pre-primary education.
The federal government in conjunction with tertiary institutions, institute of education, and colleges of education should take positive steps to produce adequate numbers of teachers and specialists in early childhood education. This will help in the methodology and the teaching curriculum of early childhood education. In addition each state of the federation should add a nursery section in their existing publicly funded primary schools.
Government should ensure that pre-primary school proprietors implement the policy statement on the medium of instruction in their institutions to maintain the mother tongue or language of the immediate community as the medium of instruction. To support this implementation, government should encourage and facilitate the writing of textbooks in Nigerian languages beyond the three major languages (Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba). This will enhance the children’s cultural identity development. Government should ensure that the main method of teaching in pre-primary institution is through Montessori play and that the curriculum of teachers training colleges is oriented to achieve this (Orebanjo, 1981).
4. Implementing all policies
There is the need to move the practice of Early Childhood Education from that of pure practice to one that will be properly guided by a policy. Let all involved practice ECE based on policy guidelines. Also, relevant multilateral and bilateral agencies should continue to support the government and all stakeholders to ensure that children enjoy their rights. All must work to ensure that the rights of every child, especially the most disadvantaged are guaranteed by responding to that famous and apt call to “leave no child behind.”
Since, CRA 2003 was passed at the federal level, it is only appropriate for state assemblies to domesticate same (Unveiling, Africa. 2003). Therefore, the remaining 10 states yet to pass the bill on the Child Rights Act into their laws should do so.
5. For a long time, some of these policies existed without any forum for convergence of interventions before the inauguration of the Early Years Consultative Development Committee (EYCDC). To address these gaps, there is a need to converge the existing policies into a coherent policy which will emphasize integration of interventions for the whole child. A single policy on early childhood education practice will help put all the important issues in one document as will be easily distributed. A suggested distribution mechanism is through the institutions of higher learning – every final year student of education gets a copy of the policy.
6. General orientation
The Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should re-orientate Nigerians on the rights and needs of every child -to survive and thrive, learn, live in a safe and clean environment; be given a fair chance in life; and be protected from violence and exploitation (Cullen-DuPont, 2009).
Evidence has shown that the pre-primary experience has a positive influence on a child’s education later in life; therefore the national policy statement should be effectively implemented to achieve and maintain its objectives and goals (Achilihu, 2010).
For this to be possible, the government should provide adequate facilities, fund, and encourage teacher training in early childhood education programmes. Additionally, there should be effective control in the establishment and approval of nursery schools. Approval should be given to nursery school building plans before they’re constructed in order to monitor the standard of facilities. These facilities should be inspected before students are admitted into the schools and monitored and maintained to ensure quality pre-primary learning institutions.
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