WRITTEN BY PAUL EZEOKE
A child’s initial character formation comes from the family, because the family is the first in the basic socialization of a child.
The parents and other members of the family, through interaction, inculcate in the child the necessary cultural values and norms that will enable him understand his environment and the expectations of the society. Effective transmission of these patterns prepares the child to reckon with the conflicting and sometimes destabilizing influences of other agencies of socialization like peer group, schools and the mass media.
However, since mid-eighties, when the demand for nursery education and daycare services increased, this important family role is gradually being shifted to these early childhood education centres, as children of less than two years old, who are still savoring their mother’s milk, are hustled off to school.
This looks like a welcome development in cementing a strong academic foundation for the child. This is further endorsed by the degree of success recorded by some countries who are adopting the same system. In Israel for instance, the Kibutz assigns care of small children to communal nursery, except for the few hours they spend with their parents each day.
Unfortunately, communal nursery schools in Israel cannot in anywhere be compared with the nursery and daycare system in Nigeria. Because most of the nursery schools in the country are sometimes exclusively for the wealthy and middle class who can afford their exorbitant fees and demands. By associating with their likes alone, these children of the rich, unconsciously, imbibe the culture of class and discrimination as they find it difficult to associate with children outside their school whom they see as inferior.
Similarly the lucrative nature of nursery school business has sparked off a scramble for proliferation of sub-standard nursery schools across the country, especially in the rural areas where a store or an uncompleted building is all that is needed to open up one. Ironically, some of them are owned and managed by school dropouts whose main focus is on how to exploit the unsuspecting parents.
Again, there have been serious allegations of unwholesome practices among some teachers of these nursery schools, which include giving sedative to infants whom they feel are restless or cry too much. This is dangerous. Similarly, there were insinuations that some of the teachers steal lunch and snacks prepared for the children by their parents, while some of the male teachers allegedly abuse the female children.
Perhaps, the most detrimental aspects of some of these nursery schools are their managerial styles and academic curriculum which are slanted to suit the vanity of some parents who are eager to show-off their little children who have learnt English language. Accordingly, some of these schools place exaggerated importance in indoctrinating their pupils in only foreign languages and foreign way of life without a corresponding orientation in the mother tongue and activities within their cultural milieu. The result is that these children are encouraged to memorize and recite sentences, paragraphs or even passages without comprehending an iota of what they are saying.
No doubt, education involves gradual transformation of an individual, in thinking, feeling and behavior, in order to equip him with basic principles and skills that will enable him confront the daily challenges of life and improve his environment. So it may be counter-productive to concentrate efforts in training a child only in the ways of a white-man who is living thousands of kilometers away while the same child is at lost on how to interact with his grandfather who lives in the same roof with him.
The State Government should therefore give more attention to the nursery school and daycare centres by incorporating them fully into the state school systems like other levels of education in the state. This will help in designing uniform and relevant curriculum that will enhance a sound development of a child.
Again, efforts should be made to increase the number public nursery schools and daycare centres with adequate facilities to give every child easy access to early childhood education in a well structured and sustainable manner.