By Saheed Ibrahim
Stakeholders in the education sector have identified low attention given to Early Childhood Education (ECE) by the federal and state governments as responsible for the high number of out-of-school children and learning crisis in Nigeria.
The stakeholders therefore called for massive investment in ECE by the government at all levels while also ensuring private and community participation in the provision of early childhood education in the country.
A report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicated that about 20 million children are out of school in Nigeria and about 10 million of them are under five years.
According to UNICEF, about 64 per cent of Nigerian children between 0 to 5 years of age do not attend Early Childhood Education, which the UN agency said is a critical foundation for all forms of child learning.
UNICEF Education Specialist, Yetunde Oluwatosin, at a media dialogue on Early Childhood Education (ECE), disclosed that globally one in three children are enrolled in pre-primary education while in Nigeria only 36 per cent of children attend early child education.
She said the situation is exacerbated by low public spending on early childhood education in spite of the huge benefits for the child development and the nation’s economic growth.
On urban and rural distribution of enrollment of pupils in ECE, as earlier pointed out by Oluwatosin, the NPA report showed on the overall that the South-West had the highest enrollment for urban schools, while the North-East had the lowest.
The Country Director, Early Childhood Development Initiative (ECDI) in Nigeria, Dr. Amy Panyi, said ECE creates opportunity for learners to explore, innovate, collaborate, develop self-confidence, critical thinking, creativity, and curiosity.
UNICEF Communication Specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku, tasked the Nigerian media to create space for issues relating to children, stressing that ECE remains the bedrock of a child’s development.
The Country Director, Early Childhood Development Initiative (ECDI) in Nigeria, Dr. Amy Panyi, said there was a need to promote early childhood education to open up a world for the children where everything is possible.
According to her, pre-primary education is the best way for a child to learn, adding that the play-based class allows children to explore, innovate, learn to collaborate and build their confidence and critical thinking among others.
Reacting, representative of the Federal Ministry of Education, Mrs Confidence Okonkwo, however, said Federal Government in recognition of the importance of early childhood education approved 5 percent of the 2 per cent Consolidated Revenue Fund allocated to UBEC, to fund the one year pre-primary education in the country.