By Ebele Orakpo, Tare Youdeowei & Elizabeth Uwandu
Today in Nigeria, probably due to economic downturn, you see five-month-old babies and toddlers going to daycare centres because both parents have to work to make ends meet. Stories abound of babies being drugged and made to sleep for hours because the caregiver is overwhelmed by the number of babies she has to care for. Sometimes, such babies learn to talk, sing and scribble by watching and copying the older children; thus, doing things they are not developmentally ready for.
This could cause some problems for them in future according to experts. It can be likened to a woman putting to bed before the normal nine-month gestation period. If certain measures are not taken medically, the child usually dies because he is not ready developmentally for life outside the womb.
In this report, Vanguard Learning presents the views of parents and teachers on sending children to school at very young age. Some of the respondents placed part of the blame at the doorsteps of parents who rush their children through school for reasons best known to them, while some see absolutely nothing wrong. Read on.
TIME for everythingIn an article by child development expert, Elizabeth Hartley Brewer in the UK Telegraph, she noted that significant changes occur around the age of seven when children have a clearer and more separate sense of self that enables them to better understand their mistakes and accept helpful criticism.
Very young children’s brains are programmed to learn differently, to connect and grow through play, exploration and the attention they receive from adults and other children.”
Also, Mrs Jane Olatunji-Hughes, an educationist with a Master’s degree in educational psychology said the trouble is that too many people believe that by pushing children harder, they will get better results. “It’s like the arms race and it is counterproductive.”
She said in Finland where children start school at seven years, skills development is emphasised in nurseries so by the time they go to formal school, they have social skills, emotional stability, physical coordination and strength,well established concepts of number, volume, space and time, ability to sit still, listen and concentrate. “Moreover, nursery staff are facilitators rather than teachers. They observe their pupils and provide the stimulus needed for each individual child at the precise level needed.”
The Director, Open Doors for Special Learners, Jos, Prof (Mrs) Joanne Umolu believes that the high rate of failure in external exams is not unconnected with this phenomenon.
“We get children in our reading clinic who are bright but have been failing because they never had the opportunity to learn to read at the time they were developmentally ready to.” She Parents are partly to blame because they want to rush their children into secondary at age 8 and 9 and so the schools feel under pressure to push them.”
Advantages: Some people believe that sending a child to school so early makes such a child smart, intelligent, bold and a great sense of freedom compared to his counterparts at home.In her contribution, Mrs Christina Ohen, a Preparatory teacher at Tonia International College, Coker, Lagos with 10 years experience, said pre-sch ool education has positive impact on a child’s overall development. “The child has the ability to scribble, learn and pick out things easily compared to his counterparts at home.
“I have children aged a year plus to two years and above. They can scribble and write well to some extent. But if you keep them at home, you cannot make progress.” Continuing, Ohen said: “Children sent to school early learn things faster than their counterparts at home.
Mark you, learning is stage by stage. For instance, a parent that says she doesn’t want her child to cry when brought to school at say, two years; such a child will eventually cry at four when he or she comes to school. You will also see that those children that are four yers now in Nursery one or two, would have gone far at school while the other child will be trying to adjust in his new class, and at a slow pace.”
Disadvantages: Other respondents, however, noted that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. In his reaction, Pastor Timothy Ikechukwu of The Church of New Jerusalem, said children who spent time with their parents before going to school show more love, have morals and develop trust, a veritable ingredient to lead a balanced life.
Psychological effect: According to Ikechukwu, there are psychological effects on a child that starts school too early. Such child develops hostile attitudes that tend to breed disobedience that is latent in the child, only to creep up as he or she grows.
“For instance, a child sent to school at a very tender age, say below five years, feels he is being pushed to a stranger. As a result, he develops hostile attitude not only towards the teacher, but also the parents. The implication is that such a child develops traits of disobedience which is latent at such age, only to surface as he grows,” added Ikechukwu.
The father of five whose children all started school at age five, said another negative effect of early child education is lack of trust such child develops towards his parents. “A child that spent his early life at school tends to have more respect for his teachers than his parents. You hear children say: “My teacher said this; my aunty said that,” even if their teacher is wrong and the parents right.”
Developing the five senses: The clergyman lamented the loss of moral values and folklore amongst school children and said the policy when he was growing up was that a child should be at least five years old before attending basic education so as to enable such child fully develop the five senses.
“But nowadays, a child that still needs the mother’s breast milk and wears diapers is sent to school. Thus, the child knows nothing about his parents and is deprived of those little things mothers pass to their young ones like moral instruction, folklore, norms and values.
“These days, our youths lack knowledge of history and this can be attributed to lack of parental tutelage in passing such knowledge to the children in their formative years. What they learn at school cannot make up for what they would have learnt from their parents at home.”
No choice: Mrs. Kosiso Nwabunike, a parent said: “Even if I think it is too early, I do not have a choice. Immediately after school, my husband and I got married and started this pure water factory. My mother is still young so I cannot take her away from her work to look after my children.
The solution is daycare. Even though I am my own boss, the factory is not conducive for them. This business is insurance for us because my husband works in a bank, you know how they are. My daughter started at 4 months, and she is three years old now, her brother is starting at 4 months too. When she is done in her class, she goes to his class to play with him and monitor him. I told her he is hers to protect.
“I know these places are generally not safe but the school has been there for years and not one parent has had any serious negative complaint. I don’t think their exposure to learning materials is wrong, after all, they learn anything available at that age. Even if they are kept at home, they would still learn from whoever is with them.
Mr. Mayor okoye, another parent said: “that i am a trader today is because i am short and my father died early. When it was time for school, my hand could not touch my ear. By the time i eventually started, i was only there a year and half when my father died. ” my boys started formally when they were one plus. They were in daycare from five months; my mother helped out.my wife had to return to work.”
When asked what she thought about daycare centres, mrs. Duru, a mother said; “if you know you are serious about having children, you quit whatever you are doing to take care of them. Don’t give anybody your children to look after. At best, you open shop near the house and look after your children.” on early education she added; “i knew something was not right; now science has confirmed it. Why would you spoil a child’s future because you don’t want to shoulder your responsibilities? Three years old for nursery one is okay. Where are they running to?” she asked.