EARLY CHILDHOOD CARE AND DEVELOPMENT EDUCATION (ECCDE) IN EBONYI STATE UNIVERSAL BASIC EDUCATION
The concept of Early Childhood Care and Development Education (ECCDE) is relatively new in the Nigerian public primary schools. Before now, the practice had been left in the hands of private school proprietors, whose primary objectives are to make profit. Through the support of donor agencies like UNICEF, UNESCO, government has realized the importance of this aspect of education and has made the programme a part of the Universal Basic Education(UBE) programme.
Early Childhood Care and Development Education include all supports necessary for every child to realize his/her right to survival, to protection, and care that will ensure optimal development from birth to age eight. Children below the age of eight learn best when they have objects they can manipulate within safe and stipulated environment. This period is the period of rapid brain development which takes place in the first two years of life.
Experiences for children from two to five years of age provide the child with the foundation for later learning and formal education as well as with baseline and social skills. Early Childhood Care and Development Education (ECCDE) is about meeting the holistic development of a child, taking into account the health, nutrition and psycho-social stimulation.
The influence of Early Childhood Education in the overall development of a child cannot be over emphasized. The early years experience, play vital role in building the intelligence, personality and social behavior of a child. Bush (2001) rightly observed that the years between birth and age give one foundation upon which successful lives are built. Due to relationship between early life experience and overall development of children, modern societies are working hard to provide needed support to enable their young ones prepare for primary school by providing different sorts of educational programmes suitable for them.
The National Policy on Education (2004) states that government recognized education as an instrument par excellence for effecting national development. For such equity is the fact that education is a right in itself as enshrined in the Child Right Act,2003.ECCDE is aimed at meeting the right of the child which is the child right to education.
In 2012, Federal government approved one year compulsory pre-primary education for age five years old children as integral part of basic education system, thereby transforming the system from 6:3:3:4 to 1:6:3:3:4. Universal Basic Education(UBE)act,2004 went further mandating every public primary school to have a pre-primary linkage to cater for children age 3-years.This linkage supposed to serve as a strategy for getting children ready for school and increasing enrolment and transition to primary one.
Thus, in recognition of the importance of ECD and need to raise awareness among state and non-state sectors in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) in September 2017, with support from UNICEF organized the National Early Childhood Development Conference in Abuja with the theme:”Investing Early in Every Nigerian Child”.
ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT IN EBONYI STATE UNIVERSAL BASIC EDUCATION BOARD FROM 2015-2018
Ebonyi SUBEB in keying into the implementation of the pre-primary education programme in compliance with the federal government policy on ECCDE has implemented the following activities;
First the unit organized sensitization of education stakeholders on the importance of Early Childhood Education and Community Based Early Childhood Centres. This has resulted in the establishment of five functional Community Based Early Childhood Centres (CBECC) in the hard to reach areas in Izzi, Afikpo North, Ezza South and Ebonyi Local Government Areas.
The newly established centres are:
Achacha Igbeagu in Izzi Local Government Area
Ndebor Ishiagu Sharon in Izzi Local Government Area
Orria, Oziza in Afikpo North Local Government Area
Esiga Idembia in Ezza South Local Government Area
Edomia Ishieke Primary School in Ebonyi Local Government Area
The total enrolment for the five centres is above two thousand pupils (2000).
Secondly, there was a capacity building of two hundred teachers/caregivers on the Use of National Early Childhood Curriculum for ages 3-5 years and the provision of one year pre-primary teacher’s guide for the teaching of pre-primary students. Other achievements include:
The Board sponsored the delegates for the training of State Early Child Development (ECD) Desk Officer at University of Ibadan, Nigeria in conjunction with University of Victoria, Canada, for a postgraduate diploma in ECD, thereby providing ECD specialist and expert in the State.
There have been regular meetings with education stakeholders, public primary school teachers, and faith based organizations and private schools in the 13 LGA on ECD prototype costing model. The consultant is yet to finalize the result.
It also organized the capacity building of teachers/school support officers on the Reggio Emilia Pedagogy in teaching and learning. Implementation of child centered activity observed in the ECD classes (135 TRS/SSO’s built) and the monitoring of ECD teachers on the application of Reggio Emilia methodology in classroom setting. So far, there is a positive change in teaching and learning in ECD classes.
Similarly, there were regular meetings with education stakeholders on needs assessment project in the building of children’s resilience through play. The result is that play and resilience help children to develop confidence, competence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control.
The Board oversaw the distribution of four seater desk in the five CBECC for conducive teaching and learning in the ECD centres and the distribution of model child learning materials produced by OMOT, as part of UNICEF support to Local Government Areas. The result is the availability of materials in the classroom and school environment.
Again, the Board distributed 787 teachers’ guides to public primary schools with ECD linkage. There is availability of teaching and learning materials in ECD centres in all public primary schools with ECD linkage.
CHALLENGES FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF ECCDE IN EBONYI STATE
Despite progress recorded so far there is need to plan for and bring to scale in a qualitative and systematic manner early childhood education to ensure children are ready with skills to succeed in primary school. In addition, the gross enrolment ratio in pre-primary schools remain low with only 37% of children aged 36-59 months attending an organized Early Childhood Education(ECE) programme(MICSS,2016-2017).
Ebonyi State College of Education has no ECE department to produce professional ECE teachers. Despite the trainings being provided to pre-primary teachers by Ebonyi State and developmental partners, many pre-primary teachers in Ebonyi State are not trained on pre-primary curriculum and methodology, such as play and activity base approaches.
Greater percentage of the training for pre-primary teachers was through the support of developmental partners like UNICEF and UNESCO.
Moreover, the pre-primary school centres are not child friendly in terms of indoor and outdoor facilities.
Finally, the unit wishes to appreciate Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board for moving ECCDE forward in the State. However, there is need to create awareness to the public on the importance of Early Childhood Care and Education to increase enrolment of ECE.
Ebonyi government should also support Ebonyi State College of Education to establish department of early childhood education to produce professional pre-school teachers, and organize in service programmes for ECE desk officers.