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Only 36% of Nigerian Children attend early childhood education – UNICEF

Despite being the bedrock of a child’s development, only 36 percent of children in Nigeria attend Early Childhood Education (ECE), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) disclosed on Wednesday.

The Fund said at least 10 million children are not enrolled in ECE, despite the fact that it is a critical foundation for all forms of learning, and development of a child.

UNICEF education specialist Yetunde Oluwatosin, made this known at a media dialogue organized on ECE by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Education, in collaboration with UNICEF in Sokoto.

According to the education specialist, research has shown that children who attend ECE performed better and had better earnings potentials. As a consequence, she said 2 in 5 children are not on track in development.

Oluwatosin expressed concerns that the situation has worsened inequalities.

Some of the bottlenecks to ECE in Nigeria, according to her include: Insufficient supply of trained teachers, limited infrastructure, poor planning, low demand, inadequate funding, and lack of data, among several others.

The education specialist emphasized that Nigeria needs to take early childhood education seriously to improve the learning and economic outcome of children and the nation at large.

In his remarks, UNICEF Communication Specialist, Geoffrey Njoku, expressed concerns that despite its importance, ECE is not gaining the needed attention, and has been swamped by political issues.

“ECE is the cornerstone, it is the bedrock of child development, that is why it is so important to focus on it,” he stressed, while explaining that the world is evolving and needs children who are smart enough to develop software and codes, among others.

He noted that the essence of the media dialogue is to develop strategies to increase ECE programmes/projects and awareness around it.

The Chief, of UNICEF field Office, Sokoto, Maryam Darwesh, also reiterated that the development of the brain in the early years is a pathway that affects physical and mental health, learning, and behaviour throughout the life cycle.

“Children who participate in well-conceived ECD programmes tend to be more successful in later school, and are more competent socially & emotionally, as well as show higher verbal, Intellectual and physical development during early childhood than those who are not enrolled into such programme”, she said.

Darwesh, however regretted that many children are not accessing pre-primary education, and reiterated that pre-primary education remains a priority in UNICEF programming with Government in Nigeria.

ECE, also known as nursery education, is a branch of education theory that relates to the teaching of children (formally and informally) from birth up to the age of eight.

Data from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) shows that there are currently 3.7 million children in 33,214 public Early Childhood Care Development and Education (ECCDE), while 3. 5 million children are enrolled in 48,348 private ECCDE.

Reporting by Daniel Adejo; Editing by Annabel Nwachukwu