The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that only 36 per cent of Nigerian children attend Early Childhood Education (ECE).
At a two-day media dialogue on Early Child Education (ECE) in Nigeria, the UNICEF education specialist, Yetunde Oluwatosin, said the percentage accounted for one in every three children.
“In Nigeria, only one in three children (36 per cent) attend, but at least 10 million children are not enrolled,” she said on Wednesday in Sokoto.
The dialogue, in collaboration with the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Education, has over 40 journalists in attendance.
Ms Oluwatosin said early childhood is a critical period that any country must pay attention to, as doing so would improve the economic outcome of the child.
“It has been observed that a large inequalities persist between the poorest children and the richest children’s ECE attendance rate translating to 8 per cent and 87 per cent, respectively.
“Globally, fewer than one in three children ages three to four attend ECE.
“In West and Central Africa, only one in four (24 per cent) attend ECE,” she said.
Ms Oluwatosin explained that the challenges of ECE are systemic, especially the education sector analysis in terms of the workforce and strength to get infrastructure.
She said ECE should be a specialized area that must be planned for while stressing that adequate data to drive early learning is critical to achieving progress.
She lists the lack of trained teachers, distance to school and inappropriate curriculum, among others, as barriers limiting the growth of ECE in the country.
“If you look at it, from the 2018 National Personnel Audit (NPA) of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), we have over seven million learners but 154,000 teachers.
“This pupils/teachers ratio is low, and we must do something to improve this. This disparity is there, and we are still far behind in achieving the SDG goals,” she said.
Also, the UNICEF communication specialist, Geoffrey Njoku, said ECE is the bedrock of a child’s development, and attention must be focused on ensuring that ECE thrives in the country.
He, therefore, called for increased space for children issues in the country while stressing that there would be educational transformation if resources were judiciously used.
Meanwhile, the country coordinator, Early Childhood Development Initiative (ECDI) in Nigeria, Amy Panyi, said there was a need to promote early childhood education to have a robust sector.