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Setback for early child education initiative

Following the development, the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme has made provision for every public primary school to have a Pre-Primary centre to cater for…

Following the development, the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme has made provision for every public primary school to have a Pre-Primary centre to cater for children aged 3-5 years.  
Federal and State Inspectorate Services, in collaboration with UBEC and SUBEBS have statutory mandates for basic education, primary and pre-primary.  
Though appreciable progress has been made in the implementation of Early Childhood Care Development and Education (ECCDE) programme in Nigeria in the past four years due to government policy requiring every public school to have a pre-primary centre, the number of children enrolled in such centres still remains low, according to UNICEF Nigeria.
UNICEF said the enrolment of children in Nigeria stood at approximately 2.3 million, representing about 21 per cent of the population of children in the age group.
The fund also noted that the caregivers at these centres are generally unqualified as about 85 per cent of them do not possess basic qualifications while more than half have no formal education.
Another major issue in Nigeria’s early childhood care and development, it added, is the poor state of the infrastructure, equipment, facilities and learning resources.
It further explained that essential learning resources are also lacking in most facilities while the national curriculum is not yet widely operational.
Also, two surveys carried out independently by Nigerian Educational Research & Development Council (NERDC) and National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) between 2003 and 2004, revealed that the few children who have access to early child development programme learn in poor condition with the teachers factor being the most critical.
The sub-sector, the surveys further revealed, is seriously plagued by inadequate supply of qualified teachers to provide care and support to the growing children.
Our reporters in Nasarawa, Kano and Kebbi states have visited some of the ECCDE centres and report the level of development or otherwise the programme has witnessed so far.

It suffers setback in Nasarawa
In Nasarawa State, ECCDE programme took off in 2008, but it was not until 2010 that the state UBE directed managements of primary schools to open centres for enrolment of children in their early or pre-primary school age, Mrs. Christiana Shigudu, desk officer for the ECCDE in the state, said.
The programme took off with federal government funding which came as five percent of the allocation to the SUBEB at the initial period of implementation, but in subsequent years the funding ceased, in what has affected the programme, she added, while listing major challenges of the programme in the state.
Daily Trust visited two schools within Lafia, the state capital, all of them some of the leading public schools where the ECCDE is in operation, only to observe that the centres established there were non-functional.
The managements of the two schools say ECCDE came with the challenge of specialised teachers, which they do not have. At one of the schools visited, the management said parents who are informed about the programme are disappointed because there are no specialised teachers to put their wards through.
“Parents in our state are not informed about this programme. The few who showed interest are disappointed that there are no specialised teachers to help their young children. So you find them withdrawing their children to either leave them at home, or enrol them in daycares operated by private schools,” a source in one of the schools said.
The desk officer, Mrs. Shigudu confirmed that the programme is facing the challenges of specialised teachers because schools in the state have NCE and degree holders, who hardly have the specialisation to handle pre-primary school ages.
“We have no trained teachers to handle this programme. But we are trying our best to see that it is fully operational here,” she said, adding that the desk office was able to develop curriculum for ECCDE but which requires trained teachers to implement it.

ECCDE is faring well in Kano
However, in Kano State, the programme is giving opportunity for the children of the less privileged who cannot afford sending their children to private nursery schools who now enroll them at the ECCDE section of government owned primary schools.
The Headmaster of Hausawa Model Primary School in Tarauni Local Government Area of the state, Malam Auwalu Sidi said the programme is run without any problem.
He said at present, the section has 50 pupils; 20 females and 30 males and the children are being taught subjects such as English, Maths, Arabic, PHE, Craft and Poems.
According to him, the subjects are taught more in a dramatic form to suit the age of the children as only pupils of age four to six are enrolled.
“In their class they have all the materials for keeping them active and happy such as TV set, DVD, toys, coloring books among others. And for the subject they are being taught, we have textbooks for each subject which is supplied by the government,” he said.
When contacted for comments on the way government is supporting the programme, the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) refused to comment saying they were not authorised to speak with the press.

Dearth of qualified teachers affects the programme in Kebbi
In Kebbi State, the programme is faced with challenges including dearth of qualified teachers, Daily Trust observed.
A visit to Emirate school opposite Abdullahi Fodio Islamic Centre, Umar Nassarawa Primary School in Birnin Kebbi and that of Gotomo along Argungu road by our correspondent showed that a class with between 20-30 children partitioned off from other pupils with barbed wire and equipped with play materials, served as ECCDE centre.
Some teachers, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said the programme mostly involves play and a little introduction of alphabets to make the children get used to school environment before they mature for primary one.
They said their challenges include shortage of trained teachers because it is a special purpose programme. They also lamented about lack of cooperation on the part of parents.
“Women are supposed to be in-charge of such centres because of their soft spot and emotional attachment towards handling small children.
“The centres need teachers who are very careful and very considerate to handle the children,” some of the teachers who spoke to our reporter on condition of anonymity said.
The Secretary of SUBEB, Kebbi State, Alhaji Sodangi Bello, said the programme does not involve intensive teaching but a combination of simple teaching and plays.
“The ECCG programme is a pre-primary school programme. 3-5year-old children are admitted and trained for about two years before been admitted into primary school.
“We have such programmes in a number of primary schools in the state. Most of the primary schools in the state have ECCDE centres and are functional.
“It is a government intervention programme, no kobo is charged from any parent. Our major challenges are for parents to agree to bring their children for enrolment,” he added.
He said: “The population of children in a school depends on the school environment. If the school has enough classes where it can accommodate the children definitely the enrolment will be high but if it doesn’t have space for the children it has to admit the number it can accommodate.”

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