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Pre-school classes boost girls’ enrolment in northern Nigeria
By Valentina Solarin
Early childhood care and education is the theme of the 2007 ‘Education for All Global Monitoring Report’ launched in October and the High-Level Group meeting held in Cairo in mid-November. Here is the latest in a series of related stories.
KAZAURE, Nigeria, 24 November 2006 – Enrolment of girls in early childhood development (ECD) classes is booming in areas of northern Nigeria, where local government authorities, assisted by UNICEF, are using multiple strategies to get more girls into pre-school. They hope that once girls get a taste of education, their interest in schooling will lead them to continue.
Target schools were selected by the Girls’ Education Project, co-sponsored by the UK Department for International Development and UNICEF. Many of the communities involved showed their enthusiasm for the initiative by building the ECD classrooms for their schools themselves, using local building materials.
Traditionally, girls’ participation in formal schooling in northern Nigeria has been extremely low. This is due to both cultural barriers against educating girls and resistance to western forms of education.
Beliefs were so deeply rooted that the gender gap in some northern states (particularly Sokoto and Zamfara) reached as high as 48 per cent, far above the national average of 16.5 per cent. But now, this situation is changing fast.
Reaching all children
The many strategies put in place to enrol all children, particularly girls, in school include:
- Early Years Development Consultative Committees, at all levels of government, for effective planning and implementation of integrated early childhood development projects
- Involvement of community members in planning, managing and monitoring schools
- Parent education, using local Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses counselling guides
- Literacy classes on the radio for adolescent girls and young mothers
- House-to-house campaigns run by Local Government Area officials
- Advocacy to increase girls’ participation in school, conducted by school-based management committees in rural areas
- Supply of soft toys, play equipment and learning materials for pre-school classrooms
- Midday meals offered to children in selected pilot schools through the national Home Grown School Feeding Programme.
Quality of pre-school services
Nigeria’s Universal Basic Education Law of 2004 requires all public primary schools to establish pre-primary programmes for children from three to five years of age, and allocates a percentage of basic education funding to pay for them. The law has greatly improved the delivery of ECD programmes such as pre-schools in the country.
The pre-school policy environment is expected to be further enhanced when a draft national policy for ECD using the integrated approach is finally approved by the government.
In anticipation of this approval, ECD is currently being mainstreamed into teacher pre-service training and offered as a specialization in all 65 colleges of education in Nigeria. This will help meet the huge challenge of providing well-trained caregivers and teachers for pre-school classes.
Having an approved national curriculum and minimum standards, along with a pool of trained caregivers nationwide to apply them, is also enriching the quality of service delivery. The challenge, however, is to provide adequate services and structures to make the learning environment child-friendly and stimulating for children, in order to sustain their interest in school.
Early Childhood links
UNESCO: Early Childhood
UNICEF: Early Childhood
The State of the World's Children 2001: Early Childhood
Stories on Early Childhood from around the world
Colombia: My little friends daycare centre
Iraq: Despite challenges, early childhood development efforts move forward [includes video]
Ireland: Mothers talking to mothers
Jamaica: A smile makes it worthwhile
Jordan: Fathers included
Kenya: Playing under the fig trees
Nigeria: Pre-school classes boost girls’ enrolment in northern Nigeria
Papua New Guinea: A recipe for success