It was four years ago since I first connected with my early childhood resource. She was my workshop leader on Reggio Emilia Approach. Since then, we have been in touch and some occasions have expanded our chats about the different aspects of early childhood – the challenges of inspiring colleagues to continue reflecting on their practices on how to be better at what they are doing is just one of our favourite topics.
She left Nigeria in the mid 80’s and is now a citizen of the United States of America. She continues her connections with her birth country by visiting at least once a year. Although not very familiar with the current issues and trends in Nigeria, she seeks to look for projects in which she can be involved. Thus, I would like to dedicate this journey of getting to know Nigeria to my friend, colleague and mentor.
The Unicef website shares an overview of the situation in Nigeria. It is Africa’s most populated country, with 171 million people, of which 41 million are children. Its economy is the largest in the continent and highest economic growth. However, with half of its population besieged by poverty, it remains challenged by the issues that relate to it.
Nigeria experiences natural disasters political instability brought about by the insurgency. Millions of mothers and children die from diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria and HIV. Lack of access to clean water and sanitation is still prevalent.
The stark reality of poverty, with the basic needs lacking for more than half of the population, comes a web of issues that the country faces, including education. Currently, only 21 percent of the young children are enrolled in Early Childhood Care Centres.
In the midst pf poverty, what is the early care and education like? Historically, it was in 1977 when the National Policy for Education was introduced that the need for early childhood education was recognised. Since then, early childhood centres and programs were established in different places – from work offices, church premises, school campuses to residential buildings. However, the proliferation of these entities does not warrant the purpose being served. The standards and regulations for operating these programs have been waived. The Unicef reports that about 85 percent of caregivers do not have the basic qualifications for the job. The infrastructure, equipment, and facilities are behind standards. The teacher-pupil ratio of 1:25 is not observed due to lack of monitoring and supervision initiatives.
Through initiated actions, there is always hope. There is community-driven and home-based support for young children from zero to three years old supported by the Unicef in 222 focus communities. Beyond the education and care initiatives, UNICEF and the World Health Organization empower communities and parents through programs on prevention of diseases such as immunisation, training on support and care for parents and household practices and stimulation. These are just a few of the many initiatives the Nigerian government and international organizations espouse to help the poor population.
Country Profile commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report. (2007). Strong foundations: early childhood care and education. UNESCO International Bureau of Education, Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001472/147201e.pdf
Sooter, T. (2013). Early Childhood Education in Nigeria: Issues and Problems. Journal of Educational and Social Research Vol. 3 (5) Retrieved from file:///Users/pamelacastillo/Downloads/653-2597-1-PB.pdf.
UNICEF Nigeria. (n.d.). Nigeria. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/nigeria/