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Kano: Breaking ECCDE policy thrust on fees

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Recently in Kano, UNICEF treated journalists to a two-day media dialogue on Early Child Care Development and Education. MARTIN PAUL writes that despite FG’s free pre-primary policy, Kano charges parents to keep the going on.

Preamble

They are sited on mats with play tools and toys around them. They are children between three and five years. They are in the Early Child Care Development and Education (ECCDE), a policy introduced by the federal government to boost early learning for children.

At the arrival of a visitor or teacher, those who can talk, chorus in one accord, “good morning sir, we are happy to see you, God bless you sir”, depending on the sex of the visitor and this occurs in every primary schools, where ECCDE centre exists.

The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) statistics shows that as at 2014, when authentic data was conceived, there were 62,406  primary schools,  but 28,026 has ECCDE centres. This is made up of 1,508,974 male and 1,458,356 female enrolment with 2,967,330 teachers all over the country for the 2012/2013 academic session.

In the 2013 and 2014 session, male enrolment stood at 1,548,523, female 1,553,019, while teachers or caregivers engaged for the ECCDE was 3,101,542 even as the statistics disclosed that of the 56,588 teachers or caregivers in the centres, only 41847, representing 74 per cent were qualified and 14,741, being 26 per cent were unqualified.

 

Essence of Early Child Care and Development

Highlighting on the importance of ECCDE to and health and future development of a child, to the family and society, the Education Specialist, United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), Swadchet Sankey said in Kaduna at a media dialogue organised for journalists on learning achievements and development of a child that the growth of a child is a continuous process that begins from the time of conception to birth and from zero to three years.

According to her, the early child care education evolves cognitive, language, physical, social and emotional developments, comprising motor skills, ability to walk, run, jump, scribble and draw.

The sixth edition of the National Policy on Education recognises these factors and Sankey said the essence of developing a child at infancy is not only biological, but also environmental.

With this, she noted that over 250 million children, the world over, are not reaching their developmental stage on time in the absence of early child care development processes.

Factually, early child care and development reduces poverty in a country that practices and executes its, just as it makes children grow with wiser decision making that would propel them to earn more in their adult years.

“Early learning is a key strategy to reduce inequalities preventing school readiness and learning”, Sankey said and asserted that investment in early learning of a child “improves education outcome, promotes equality, builds skills, yields high returns and benefits.

“With early learning, children are likely to complete and less likely to drop-out in early grades resulting in education system efficiencies”, she added.

Undoubtedly, understanding the importance of Early Child Care Development and Education ad imprinting finances, moral and time support into it, is an assurance that Nigeria would not fail to reach the 2013 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 4) target.

 

FG’s interventions

It is nationally accepted that basic education is under the purview of state and local governments, but the federal government of Nigeria has gone beyond policy formulation to supporting the ECCDE morally, financially and materially.

A Deputy Director with Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Mayowa Aleshin, in his paper: Investing Early in Every Nigerian Child: Government Efforts through UBEC”, enumerates the various avenues the federal government has taken to encourage early child care education in the country.

The federal government, according to him, has provided policy documents guiding the development and implementation of ECCDE and pre-primary education provided in all the states of the federation.

It also spelt ECCDE minimum standards, early learning development   standards, one year pre-primary curriculum, integrated early childhood development policy

To buttress and ensure success, the FG also provided the lee way for the reform of colleges of education to accommodate school of Early Childhood Structure of 1-6-3-3-4

Besides other interventions, a one-year free and compulsory pre-primary education and the proposal that every primary school should have a at least a linkage centre, are also the handiwork of the federal government.

As at 2014, a total of 518,000 instructional materials on social norms, literacy and numeracy were supplied to schools nationwide.

“Teachers trained in 2014 were 2643 and 2640 in 2015 such as swings, merry go round and slides are presently being supplied to schools”, Aleshin said.

For placing ECCDE in the front burner, the FG through UBEC approved the use of five per cent of some of the components of the UBE intervention fund for ECCDE.

Trainers manual on effective management of ECCDE centre were developed, while increased access through construction of ECCDE centres were also undertaken.

According to Aleshin, National Council on Education has also approved the establishment of community-based Early Child Care Centres, and the National Policy on Education (6th edition)  has recognises ECCDE as 0-4  and Pre primary/ kindergarten as 0-5.

Teacher-pupil ratio for crèche, he said is approved to 1:10, Nursery 1:25 and pre primary 1:25, while a mechanism has been set up to monitor minimum standards, develop and disseminate curriculum materials.

 

Funding

Basic education, as said erlier, is on the concurrent list of legislation which make funding and ownership the responsibility of local and state government, but in the ECCDE the federal government set aside 2% of Consolidated Revenue fund for implementation of this project.

“Funding is segregated to Matching Grant 50 per cent, Instructional Materials 15 per cent, and Teacher Development of 10 per cent, while five per cent of each of the three components is for pre-primary schools.

 

Role of parents

UBEC’s slogan that education for all is the responsibility of all comes to interplay in the role parents to a successful early childhood education.

Firstly, parents and communities are to ensure every child has access to ECCDE and pre-primary, ensure children have access to stimulation, safe and free environment.

They are also to ensure responses of Community Based Early Childhood in the hard-to-reach and remote areas and CBECC, on its own, should ensure children, especially, in remote and hard-to-reach areas, have access to stimulation, safe and free environment and early year’s education, among other responsibilities.

Despites the federal government commitments to the success of the early child education and development, findings show that some states are still dilly darling in the promotion of the concepts.

For instance in 1013, when the project was introduced, apparently due to free-feeding ideology, many states embraced it, but after a year or so, started backsliding.

Statics at our disposal showed that in 2013, Cross River state enrolled 1021 in the ECCDE, but the figure declined to 966 in 2014. No current data to justify its true position yet.

Similarly, in 2013, Kano recorded 5, 335 but in 2014, only 1, 735 children were counted in the ECCDE centres across the state, just as the national data, which stood at 30,901 in 2013, reduced to 28,026.

 

Kano experience

Although 2013 and 2014 data showed that the situation in Kaduna state was increasing rather than reduction, the appalling situation in which the children are subjected to lives one to wonder the kind of achievements expected from the state.

A media tour to Kofo Nasarawa Model Primary School, where an ECC centre is located tells story of its condition.

While children are sitting on dusty floor, the roofs of the school are tattered and leaked, depicting an old age, just as their play toys are old fashioned and dirty.

The school lacks potable water, even as the storage tanks had no water, except when purchased in a jerry can, pupils are subjected to drinking it and washing of hands, when necessary.

Head teacher of the school, Abdulsalami Mohammed told the visiting UNICEF and media team that the centre was too small to accommodate the increasing number of children brought in by their parents.

Consequent upon this, the facilities were also not sufficient for the number of children, but donations were coming from donor agencies, government and interest groups.

Mohammed said there are 94 children in the centre, as against the FG recommendation of 25 per centre, while only one caregiver, who was sighted, was taking care of all the children in the centre.

However, Mohammed confirmed that there were three teachers, including Arabic teacher, with early child care background for the children, while the caregiver handles any of the children in the case he or she wants to urinate or defecate.

In a case of health situation among the children, Mohammed said the caregiver is in-charge and she also oversees the welfare of the children.

However, the good news is that Kano is not running the Early Child Care Development and Education in isolation, there is a coordinator, who attends conferences, workshops and seminars and feed the handlers with development.

While appealing to donors for continuous assistance with teaching materials, Mohammed said the N2,000 charged each parent per child, although in contrast to FG concept of free education, remains too meager for effective running of ECCDE centres in the state.

 


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