By; Okafor Joseph Afam
In the views of UNICEF, even the uneducated parents who used to differ on proven gains derivable from good nutrition such as exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life and subsequent feeding with good meals, otherwise regarded as a balanced diet, are expectedly turning advocates of good nutrition for all children.
The above development has further proved that good nutrition and early child development are like shell and snail. Though they are intertwined, The wellness of the latter depends on the former based on finance.
Essentially, real life changing stories such as the ones provided in this piece will at least help change the attitude of persons who do not yet believe that good nutrition for infants and children is arguably the best gift parents can offer their children.
To further support the above, a story has it that Awudu Musa has been roaming the Street of Esie tedo riding his bicycle every Morning assisting his Father Mr Idris Musa who is farmer and also Gateman of 15 Esie tedo Street Behind Nigeria a Navy base Esie tedo Street Oluti Alakija, Lagos. The 7 years -old boy is just very amazing in manners he has grown intellectually in few months of staying in the city.
According to Mr Idris Musa The boy started getting used to living in the city and after spending most of his year in the village, just after eight months in lagos he can speak and understand English a bit and getting used to the environment, he always move close to other children in each compound fighting and get beaten by other children who are older than him as a result of getting used to life in the city. Awudu would be seen jumping over cars to cars. To his parents’ surprise, he has attempted many times to pick books trying read, teach and write himself while they eat. He is very intelligent, smart, sharp, acknowledgeable and craft.
Some neighbours’ believe the father Is not sharp as he is, and wonder how the boy remains a genius at his age depicts growing up in the North. The best thing to observe in the boy’s life is that he hardly falls sick. Even while engaging a fight with a mate a few days ago, the mother, Musa , told this medium that he only gave him paracetamol for his Son, “and that was all.”
Musa quoted why he left the north saying. I left for the city to make money and take care of my family, I‘m not educated I need to give children some education to some level.
Continuing, noted that is Son has shown amazing character how he adapted to life in the city, even with life English lean from the street he speaks very well.
Musa said I have been trying to raise money to send my boy to school; I have visited my brothers and cousin who promise to assist me.
His biggest worry, however, is that Awudu is not learning fast as he expects. “I want him to be smarter, he said.
On the other Hand, It is horrible how core poverty has forced children to accept faith at an early stage of life, roaming the streets and community happily.
In another but related development, MuBalrack a native of Osun State, whose father Mr. Malik Raheem, the third son of the Oba of Oluti. A resident of comfort OlaYemi Oluti street reveals’ how life has hider them of competing with their mates in the community.
Mubarak and Swaibat said after spending some holidays with their grandfather, Oba here in the city, returning back to school has been a huge problem.
Noted that they are five children in number two boys and three girls, they all sit at home helping the mother in domestic work.
According to him, finance has the major problem while they are not able to further their primary education, the father being a bus conductor and mother who is a stay home mum said they feed through their neighbour’s farm after assisting the farm.
Though the picture of poverty could be easily seen on many of pupils within the school, many of them still looked healthy, except that they put on worn out and dirty uniforms most times, following much wind that raises dust, and often causes dust storm on the premises. Nigeria’s northern region is characterized by dust wind during the dry season, because of its arid nature.
Going on, experts believe that no matter the economic conditions of families, parents and other caregivers could make good nutrition out of the common and cheap foods in their environments such as vegetables, fruits, guinea corn, maize, crayfish, milk, egg, beans, millet, groundnuts, soya beans among others. Available data research even shows that malnutrition is common in rich homes because people in those homes eat fast foods and other meals that lack nutrients expected for good growth.
Education Specialist for UNICEF, Swachet Sankey, said during the media dialogue programme that early child period comes in four sections: from conception to birth; from birth to three years, especially the first 1000 days; three to five or six years, being the pre-school period; and six to eight years when the child transits to primary school.
“Development is an outcome and the continuous process of acquiring skills and abilities during age period. Forms of development include cognitive development, language development, physical development, social development and emotional development.
Also, development results from the interaction between the environment and the child. A stable environment is the one that is sensitive to children’s health and nutritional needs, with protection from threats, providing opportunities for early learning and interactions that are responsive emotionally, supportive and developmentally stimulating. The key aspect of this environment is nurturing care.
Expert knowledge has further shown that all young children from conception to transition to primary school achieve their developmental potentials. This is enabled by two factors. One, all children have equitable access to essential quality health, nutrition, protection and early learning services that address their developmental needs.”Every young child has the right to thrive. as a child’s brain develops fastest in the first two to three years.
Quoting the 2015 Lancet, Swachet said about 250 million children under-five are at the risk of not reaching their full potential.
She said Nigeria is among the 10 top countries that contribute to the 250 million children, and that lack of early childhood education results in about 25 percent reduction in average adult earning potentials.
“Early childhood development pays off, paving way for better health and learning capacity, increases adult learning, reduces poverty and eliminates inequalities. The brain develops most rapidly in the first 1000 days of life where neurons form new connections at an astounding rate of up to 1000 days,” Sankey noted.
Regarding earnings, she argued that early nutrition can raise adult wages by five to 50 percent. Children who escape stunting are 33 percent more likely to escape poverty, she said.
“Early learning is a key strategy to reduce inequities, promoting school readiness and learning. Research has shown that children who have a pre-primary education are less likely not to proceed with education.
“Investment in early learning can improve education outcomes, promote equity, build a skilled workforce, yield a high result and benefit society… The Sustainable Development Goals desire that by 2030, all girls and boys have access to quality childhood development, care and pre-primary education that will help them get set for primary school education.
She noted that UNICEF focuses on pre-primary education, capacity building, innovation, and advocacy, conducts in-service and pre-school teaching training, monitoring, mentoring, data and evidence generation as its contribution to early child development. “One of the challenges UNICEF has in Nigeria is lack of evidence/data on pre-school education,” she said.
Desk Officer, Early Childhood Education Programme at the Universal Basic Education Commission in Abuja, Mr Alesin Mayowa, spoke with the media team on Investing Early in Every Nigerian Child. Mayowa said Nigeria constitution prescribes education as a right, and that the country is a signatory to international conventions such as Education for All, MDGs and the SDGs.
UBE programme, he said is a response of the government to fulfilling its role and commitment to international conventions.
UBEC was initiated in 1999 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. It was given a legal framework in 2004 with the UBE Act 2004. Scope of UBE covers nine years of formal schooling. UBE provides free books instructional materials, classrooms, furniture and lunch for the children, he added.
On the importance, it explained that It builds teachers capacity, provides infrastructures. National Policy on Education (6th Edition) recognizes ECCDE as 0 – 4 and pre-primary kindergarten as 0 – 5,” he said.
Mayowa further explained that teacher-pupil ratio for crèche is 1:10, nursery 1:25, and pre-primary 1:25. The new structure of education in the country is Nigeria is 1-6-3-3-4, and the first school year is compulsory pre-primary education.
He stressed that government has policy documents guiding the development and implementation of ECCDE and pre-primary education. He said there is a policy that government reform colleges of education to accommodate School of Early Childhood.
Mayowa however lamented that Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola kicked against the ECCDE programme. According to him, the governor said children of age three to five should remain under the custody of their parents and guardians. He pledged that government is poised to achieving target two of the SDG four.
On the reason state like Osun refused to accept the programme, he said Federal Government could not force any state to accept its education policies because education is on the Concurrent List of the nation’s constitution.
A senior official of the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Omokere Oluseyi, who spoke on Nigerian Child and ECD, said each year, more than 267,000 babies die in their first month of life, accounting for more than a third of all under-five deaths.
He explained that Nigeria records about 756,000 under-five deaths every year (IGME 2012) one in every 15 children.
According to him, approximately 8.8 million children die in the world annually out of which Nigeria contributes one million under-five deaths and the greatest burden is with newborn deaths.
Oluseyi said Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five years old and 145 women of childbearing age daily. This, he said, makes the country the second largest contributor to global under-under mortality.
He listed causes of under-five deaths to include pneumonia, malaria, HIV/AIDS, asphyxia, sepsis, congenital, malformation, measles, diarrhoea among others.
He finally said that the health ministry focuses on the reduction of perinatal and neonatal morbidity, mortality and ensure optimal health for all newborns.