How poor attendance at pre-primary schools affect learning in Kano State

…government need to invest more in early learning – UNICEF

At K/Nasarawa Special Primary School, Kano- a government-owned public school that has been in existence since 1960, lessons are taught to children who sat on cold, bare floor, with many barely understanding what is being taught.

It was gathered that many of them never attended the Early Childhood Care Development Centre (ECCD) or Pre-primary school section, which could have exposed them early to mental reasoning, making them perform better in primary classes.

This coupled with lack of chairs and infrastructure, makes learning very difficult for the students.

According to the form teacher of one of the primary three classes, Aisha Muhammad, one of the reasons for the student’s slow understanding was lack of exposure to pre-primary education.
“many of them never attended Early Childhood Care Development (ECCD) centres. They are brought directly here so many of them find it difficult catching up with learning”, she said.

To make this is worse, she said the school has no chairs and the children have to bring chalk and broom from home.

Although the ECCD centre is free at the school, many mothers could not afford to pay the N1000 registration fee required. As a result, so many children miss out on early childhood learning, she explained.

It was observed that majority of the students who never attended the pre-primary school, found it difficult reading, doing calculations and communicating in English.

One of the pupils interviewed, who spoke in Hausa language, Abubakar Umar, told journalists that he started primary one at age 8, without attending the pre-primary school.

Now in primary three, Ibrahim finds it extremely difficult to read and grasp the teachings of mathematics going on in the class.

At the class, the Guardian observed a distinction between the children that attended pre-primary school and those that did not attend.

For instance, children like Ibrahim who did not attend pre-primary school, could not comprehend and respond to simple instructions given in English. There was also lack of focus, poor reading ability and lack of interest in the subject being taught. This was different for Amina who attended the ECCD centre. She appeared smarter and more intelligent and found it easy to understand things being said to her. She also has a keen interest in Mathematics.

At the ECCD centre, few children from three to six years are seen playing around with toys, paper and play objects. The Caregiver, Sadiga Muhammed Abdullahi said; “we expose them to sounds of alphabets, colours, and games. We teach them with plays and songs, exposing their brains to early reasoning”.
According to her, some of the parents do not see the importance of bringing their children to the ECCD centre. “For those that bring their children, sometimes they will not give them food, they will just give them N5 to buy something, so the children always lack nutritional meals while others go hungry”, she said.

According to United Nations report, early childhood education is associated with higher scores in reading and mathematics at age 15.

Although pre-primary education has been recognised as an important foundation that will improve a child’s learning ability, yet many children in Nigeria are denied this foundation in their life.
A 2014 report by The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), showed that out of 62,406 public primary schools, only 28,026 has pre-primary school or Early Childhood Care Development (ECCD) centres. And for many of the government schools that have ECCD, the quality of the learning services and enrolment is still not encouraging.
During a recent media dialogue on early childhood Development (ECD) held at Kano State, by UNICEF Nigeria, Education Specialist for UNICEF, Swachet Sankey, said there was a need for government to invest more in early learning.

“Investment in early learning can improve education outcomes, promote equity, build a skilled workforce, yield a high result and benefit society. The Sustainable Development Goals desire that by 2030, all girls and boys have access to quality childhood development care and pre-primary education that will help them get set for primary school education.”

She explained that early child period comes in four sections: from conception to birth; birth to three years, especially the first 1000 days; three to five or six years- being the pre-school period; and six to eight years when the child transits to primary school.

“Development is an outcome and the continuous process of acquiring skills and abilities during this early period. Forms of development include cognitive development, language development, physical development, social development and emotional development.

“Development results from interaction between the environment and the child. A stable environment is the one that is sensitive to children’s health and nutritional needs, with protection from threats, providing opportunities for early learning and interactions that are responsive emotionally, supportive and developmentally stimulating. The key aspect of this environment is nurturing care, she said.

She added that all young children from conception to transition to primary school can achieve their developmental potentials. This is enabled by two factors. One, all children have equitable access to essential quality health, nutrition, protection and early learning services”

According to her, every young child has the right to thrive and a child’s brain develops fastest in the first two to three years.

The 2015 Lancet study revealed that about 250 million children under-five are at the risk of not reaching their full potential.

Sankey said Nigeria is among the 10 top countries that contribute to the 250 million children, and that lack of early childhood education results in about 25 percent reduction in average adult earning potentials.

“Early childhood development pays off, paving way for better health and learning capacity, increases adult learning, reduces poverty and eliminates inequalities. The brain develops most rapidly in the first 1000 days of life where neurons form new connections at an astounding rate of up to 1000 days,” Sankey noted.

Regarding earnings, she argued that early nutrition can raise adult wages by five to 50 percent. Children who escape stunting are 33 percent more likely to escape poverty, she said.

“Early learning is a key strategy to reduce inequities, promoting school readiness and learning. Research has shown that children who have a pre-primary education are less likely not to proceed with education.

She noted that UNICEF focuses on pre-primary education, capacity building, innovation, and advocacy, conducts in-service and pre-school teaching training, monitoring, mentoring, data and evidence generation as its contribution to early child development. “One of the challenges UNICEF has in Nigeria is lack of evidence/data on pre-school education,” she said.

Desk Officer, Early Childhood Education Programme at the Universal Basic Education Commission in Abuja, Mr Alesin Mayowa, who spoke with the media team on ‘Investing Early in Every Nigerian Child’ said Nigeria constitution prescribes education as a right, and that the country is a signatory to international conventions such as Education for All, MDGs and the SDGs.

The UBE programme, he said is a response of the government to fulfilling its role and commitment to international conventions.

“UBEC was initiated in 1999 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. It was given a legal framework in 2004 with the UBE Act 2004. The scope of UBE covers nine years of formal schooling. UBE provides free books instructional materials, classrooms, furniture and lunch for the children.

“It builds teachers capacity, provides infrastructures. National Policy on Education (6th Edition) recognizes ECCDE as 0 – 4 and pre-primary kindergarten as 0 – 5,” he said.

Mayowa said teacher-pupil ratio for crèche is 1:10, nursery 1:25, and pre-primary 1:25. The new structure of education in the country is Nigeria is 1-6-3-3-4, and the first school year is compulsory pre-primary education.

Mayowa explained that government has policy documents guiding the development and implementation of ECCDE and pre-primary education. He said there is a policy that government reform colleges of education to accommodate School of Early Childhood.

Mayowa said the Federal Government set aside two percent of its Consolidated Revenue Fund for implementation of the UBEC programme. “The funding was segregated to matching the grant by states. In 2017 budget, UBEC got N95 billion from the Consolidated Revenue Fund”.

Mayowa, however, lamented that Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola kicked against the ECCDE programme. According to him, the governor said children of age three to five should remain under the custody of their parents and guardians. He explained that Federal Government could not force any state to accept its education policies because education is on the Concurrent List of the nation’s constitution.

A senior official of the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Omokere Oluseyi, who spoke on Nigerian Child and ECD, said each year, more than 267,000 babies die in their first month of life, accounting for more than a third of all under-five deaths.

He explained that Nigeria records about 756,000 under-five deaths every year (IGME 2012) one in every 15 children.

According to him, approximately 8.8 million children die in the world annually out of which Nigeria contributes one million under-five deaths and the greatest burden is with newborn deaths.

Oluseyi said Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five years old and 145 women of childbearing age daily. This, he said, makes the country the second largest contributor to global under-under mortality.

He listed causes of under-five deaths to include pneumonia, malaria, HIV/AIDS, asphyxia, sepsis, congenital, malformation, measles, diarrhoea among others.

He said the health ministry focuses on the reduction of perinatal and neonatal morbidity, mortality and ensure optimal health for all newborns.

“Government interventions over the years include development of National Strategic Health Development Plan (2017 – 2022); Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn Child and Adolescent Health Strategy and Nutrition; National Strategy on Scale-up of four percent Chlorhexidine (2016); Nigeria Every Newborn Action Plan (2016); National strategy on MNH Quality of Care; and Domestication of UN Commission on Life Saving Commodities. That is, Nigeria’s 13 (+2) live saving commodities,” he said.



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