• Monday, May 27, 2024
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Why FG should invest in training of early childhood teachers

Childhood education

Amid the economic crunch ravaging many Nigerian homes, learning poverty is seen to be surging in the country, especially with those in public primary schools whose low-income earning parents cannot foot their education bills.

Recent research indicates that over 10 million Nigerian children cannot read by age 10, which is a stark reality of learning poverty inherent in the country.

Consequent to this, Nigeria can be said to be nurturing a community of illiterates.

Experts posit that illiteracy creates barriers to effective communication, understanding societal norms, and participating fully in community life, resulting in social exclusion, feelings of isolation, and a lack of access to various social opportunities.

They also believe that reading and comprehending are crucial to learning and academic progress in young children, hence, the call for the concerned authorities to rise to the occasion.

The United Nations marked the ability to read and understand simple texts at ten years of age as a clear indication of children learning in a working school system.

Therefore, it is expected that every ten-year-old should have achieved rudimentary reading and comprehension abilities by this age, thus laying a solid foundation for any further advancements in communication and academic achievement.

According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), learning poverty is evident in a child’s inability to read and understand simple text by age ten.

This definition merged the share of primary-aged pupils out of school, referred to as schooling-deprived (SD), and the share of pupils short of the minimum reading proficiency, referred to as learning-deprived (LD).

Over 10 million Nigerian children cannot read by the age of 10

The inability of children to read and understand a simple text by age 10, can be due to a lack of access to quality education, limited resources, or other factors, experts say.

Elizabeth Ohaka, an early childhood education expert called for the government to pay attention to the learning system in order to adequately address the reading problem among Nigerian children.

“The reading problem can be addressed through using the right personnel, and training and re-training of in-service teachers.

Besides, there is a need for the authorities to consider using tried and tested methods of teaching reading, like the phonics method, and begin to discard the traditional teaching methods such as; look and say, rote learning, and whole language method that encourage memorisation of words rather than the ability to work out the sounds in a word,” she said.

Blessing Ema, an educationist, speaking on the need for the government to invest in the development of early years teachers said that reading and reading skills can be improved by ensuring that early childhood teachers are well trained on new techniques to help children assimilate.

“Early years teachers should be trained on new techniques to help children read. Most public primary school teachers are not aware of modern teaching strategies because they are not trained.

“Majority of these children who cannot read are from public schools. Government should take up the training of early years teachers from basic 1 to 6 in public schools,” she stated.

Mercy Nnokam, a teacher in Rivers State advocates for a conducive learning environment and qualified teachers who will be able to give the children early exposure to reading.

“The various authorities should make available the needed books and put in place qualified teachers that will be able to encourage the children to read topics from their textbooks and ask them to underline words they find difficult to pronounce.

“Besides, adopting syllables to break down complex words for easy pronunciation will help make reading fun especially with the educators asking children to retell stories sometimes,” she said.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 63 per cent of the Nigerian population (133 million) suffered multidimensional poverty in 2022.

Multidimensional poverty considers factors such as deprivation of education, health, and better living standards in its term designation.

 For education, it includes school attendance and years of schooling. Regarding out-of-school children, Nigeria ranks the highest, with over 10.5 million children not attending school despite implementing free and compulsory primary education.

Statistics show that learning poverty is significant in the northern region of the country, driven primarily by low school attendance. This apathy is heavily triggered by socio-cultural norms and practices discouraging children from receiving formal education.

According to a UNICEF report, “In Nigeria, about 10.5 million children are not in school even though primary education is officially free and compulsory.

“The education deprivation in northern Nigeria is driven by various factors, including economic barriers and socio-cultural norms and practices that discourage attendance in formal education, especially for girls.

“In northeast Nigeria, at least 496 classrooms have been destroyed and 1,392 classrooms have been damaged but repairable.”

 In addition to socio-cultural norms, economic barriers and increasing insecurity challenges resulting from the activities of Boko Haram in the North East and banditry in the Northern region are contributing factors.

The increasing level of insecurity in northern Nigeria has displaced hundreds, contributed to the closure of over 802 schools, destroyed 497 classrooms, and positioned over 2.8 million children in need of education emergencies in the northern region from 2015 to date.

Stakeholders argue that the 10.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria and the 92 per cent average learning deprivation rate are clear indications of a non-working school system in Nigeria.