Early Childhood Association in Nigeria (ECAN) has said the Federal Government needs to do more to enhance the practice of Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE).
The body said integrating ECCE into policy documents such as the National Policy on Education, Minimum Standard for the Establishment of ECCE Centre, integrated Early Childhood Development, NCCE minimum standard and one year pre-primary curriculum, among others, were steps in the right direction.
Nonetheless, the group believes that a special unit set up by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to oversee the running of ECCE centres and programmes nationwide, in addition to special schools for training ECCE teachers, would also help.
The group's suggestions were contained in a communiqué issued at the end of its five-day conference held at the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), in which participants also called for the adoption of the name 'caregivers' instead of 'teachers' for adults trained to handle children in their early years.
The communiqué signed by national president and national secretary, Prof Ajike Osanyin and Muyiwa Ashimolowo, advocated character education in preschools.
Members also admonished governments to urgently, 'increase its supervisory and regulatory activities to curb incessant inappropriate practices in public and private schools."
Professor of Science Education Adekunle Solomon Olorundare, from UNILORIN, who delivered a keynote address with the theme: "Repositioning early childhood education in Nigeria for global competitiveness: A peek into global best practice"said of all education approach, play serves as the best way for a child to develop, exercise and experience fundamental life skills. Therefore play should be a significant feature of all curriculums, Olorundare argued.
He urged Nigeria to take cue from countries such as Finland, Netherland, New Zealand and Turkey which renewed their commitment to ECCE.
He said: "Federal, state, and local governments should put measures in place to ensure standards. This is because the pre-primary level is bedrock for a smooth transmission to the primary school. Definitely, if the foundation of a house is faulty, it will naturally affect the superstructure. The government’s policy ironically failed in this aspect."
“Since governments have subtly ‘abandoned’ pre-primary education in the hands of private entrepreneurs, graduate teachers are unwilling to take up jobs as early childhood care givers because of low wages, job security associated with the private institutions and poor morale and recognition.
“This is because the government is failing in its responsibility of placing premium on early childhood teacher education even though its policies are specified and laudable. Government must initiate mechanisms to regulate and control private establishment and operation of pre-primary education in the country. It is only when classroom teachers are trained under specific and specialized courses that lend themselves to early childhood education that they would acquire pedagogical orientations that would assist them to develop skills to be deployed to stimulate and sustain children’s interest in learning”
One of the presenters, Dr Babaijide Abidogun from Lagos State University, advocated emphasis of use of mother tongue or language of the immediate environment.
Osanyin said the theme could not have come at a better time, considering the urgent task of repositioning the Nigerian child for global competitiveness in the face of scarce resources and recession.
She noted that access to ECCE could eradicate global poverty and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development therefore requires that significant attention be paid to early childhood; it therefore means that ECAN members must be more than ever be readily committed to issues affecting children and feature significantly in policies in this regard,” she said.