Background of the Study
The early years of a child’s growth is very crucial for the social, emotional and cognitive development of the individual and so, adequate support at this stage helps to promote growth and development. It is a period of rapid growth and development. According to Obiweluozo (2012), it is a foundation period of life and a period that holds the key to the overall maximum development of the child. Stressing the critical nature of this period, Chukwu (2008) state that a child who has been well guided through the stages of childhood development is well equipped for the challenges of adulthood.
A child is an individual within the age of puberty. According to Griale (2015), a child is any individual who is between the ages of 0 and 17 years and above and not up to 18 years. According to Melchiorre (2004), a child is conceptualized as a human between the age of birth and puberty. Howard (2008) maintaines that childhood is the age span ranging from birth to adolescence. For Houghton (2000) a child is a person within birth and puberty, a person who has not attained maturity or the legal maturity. Graile (2015) further states that early childhood refers to a human at the very beginning of development. This is the age some authors refer to as pre-school age. It is the age range between 0 and 5 years. Eddy (2010) noted that;
Early childhood follows the infancy stage and begins with toddlerhood when the child begins speaking or taking steps independently. While toddlerhood ends around age three when the child becomes less dependent on parental assistance for basic needs, early childhood continues approximately through years five to six(p:2)
Early childhood stage refers to the very start of human development and is within the age range of 0 – 5 years, at this stage the child is completely dependent on the adults. Ekanem (2011) described this period of human development as a period covering the first five years of life prior to entering primary school. This is a period of physical growth including the development of brain almost to its full adult size and it is also a critical period of cognitive functioning. At this stage, the child is dependent and so, requires proper care and education. Hence the need for early childcare and education centre.
Early child care is the care and nurturing given to a child at the earliest stages of his/her live. It is a supplementary service given to children in the absence of their parents. According to Eva (2003), early child care can be seen as care provided to children when their parents are out at work. It is a supplementary service because parents delegate their responsibilities of providing care and appropriate experience for their children to those caregivers in their absence. According to Oshungbohum (2005), early child care is an arrangement to ensure that children are physically healthy, mentally alert, emotionally secure, socially competent, and intellectually ready to learn when sent to school. Early child care therefore, involves all forms of assistance and education given to children within the age of 0-5 years plus, outside their homes and families. Morrison (2004) maintained that early child care is a comprehensive care because of the fact that it goes beyond custodial care; like food, shelter, and other physical necessities to include educational activities and other activities that encourage learning and positive development.
Early childcare and education (ECCE) can be offered in many different places, ranging from existing schools, halls, mosques, churches, families to purpose built structures among others (FRN, 2004). In view of this, the Federal Government of Nigeria translated the convention on the Right of the Child (CRC) into Child Right Act (CRA) and further incorporated it into the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act of 2004 (Aluede, 2006). This then placed the early childhood education in mainstream level of education. With the introduction of the UBE, government directed that all public primary schools in the country should run early care education programme with the aim of preparing children for primary education challenges. In line with the purposes of ECCE, the UBE Act (2004) states that the implementation of the UBE Programmes is expected to integrate ECCE in public primary schools. Such schools are non-fee paying and are supported with materials and facilities, thereby making pre-schools affordable and open to more children.
Early childcare and education is given in day care, nursery, and kindergarten schools. According to the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) in her National Policy on Education (NPE) (2004), “early childcare/pre-primary education consists of daycare/crèche which is for children aged 0-2 years, pre-nursery/play group for children aged 3-4 years, and nursery/kindergarten which is for children aged between 4 and 5 years”. According to the Danish Ministry of Education (2015), early childcare/pre-primary education is the initial stage of organized instruction which is designed primarily to introduce very young children to a school-type environment. Ibiam and Ugwu (2009) noted that pre-primary education is the education designed to develop the habits, attitudes and skills needed for primary education. Thus pre-school education disposes the very young children for school activities and conditions. This is because early childhood is an activity packed stage.
Early childhood period is activity packed stage of life. According to Maduike, Maduike and Eke (2013), early childhood is characterized by different forms of activities such as playing with toys, running around, jumping up and down, walking, catching, kicking, curious and explorative in nature. This is a period when children learn very easily through play. Preschoolers are full of questions such as; who filled the river with water? Do smells come from inside my nose? Why do people have two eyes?, among many others (Papalia & Feldman, 2011). To provide reasonable answers, to satisfy the children’s curiosity and to give them proper care and guidance, there is need for early childcare/education centers where professionals are expected to take care of the children and give them room for exploration of the environment to discover things on their own.
Primary school is an educational institution where children receive primary or elementary education prior to secondary school. Primary schools place a major emphasis on teaching children the basic skills of reading, writing, language, and Mathematics. The arts, languages other than English, social education programs, health, and physical recreation also play important roles in primary education programs (FRN, 2004; Education and Training Directorate, 2015). There are two categories of primary schools: public and private primary schools. Okafor (2006) observed that;
In contemporary perception, public schools are those schools controlled neither by individuals, nor by private interests or agencies, but by those who represent the society as a whole or its majority group. In a national context, therefore, public schools are those supported and controlled by the government of the state or nation (P:289-290).
Public primary schools can be described as those primary schools established, maintained, and controlled by the state. These are primary schools owned by the government. It may be owned by either the local, state or federal government. It is as a result of the importance attached to pre-primary education that the government instructed that early childcare centres be established in existing public primary schools. It is also as a result of this importance that the government spelt out minimum standards for the establishment and running of early child care education centres (FRN, 2004).
The National minimum standard is a document produced by Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) in August, 2004 with the support of UNICEF for the care and education of children within the ages of 0-5 years. It is an Integrated Early Childhood Development (IECD) guideline for operating ECC/Pre-primary education in Nigeria. It is a guideline for operators and stakeholders so that the practice and operation of early child care and pre-primary education will become standardized all over the country.
For the effective running and attainment of the goals of the ECC centres, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in the National Minimum Standards for Early Child Care Centres in Nigeria (FRN, 2004) provided guide line for the arrangement of the centers. The arrangement include; care and nurturing for the child, health, food and nutrition, including breastfeeding for up to six months, access to safe water, sanitation and immunization against diseases. It requires a protective atmosphere that encourages early socialization, stimulation and positive interaction with family and community and also proper record keeping. The enumerated care and nurturing guideline for the educational and developmental needs of the child are very important and crucial.
These factors are very crucial for the proper and adequate development of the child. Care and nurturing refers to the mode of interaction between the child and the available adults. According to Bavolek and Rogers (2012), a child’s early experience of being nurtured and developing a bond with a caring adult affects all aspects of his/her behaviour and development. When parents and children have strong and warm feelings for one another, children develop trust that their parents will provide what they need to thrive, including love, acceptance, positive guidance and protection which Erick Erikson referred to as period of basic trust and mistrust (Ngwoke & Eze, 2010). This implies that babies who receive affection and nurturing from their parents have the best chance of healthy development. The authors further noted that a child’s relationship with a consistent and caring adult in the early years is associated later in life with better academic grades, healthier behaviors, more positive peer interactions and an increased ability to cope with stress. Infants develop attachment to the people who are concerned about their health, feeding, comfort, security, among others.
Health is a state of physical and mental balance and wellbeing, a state in which the body systems function properly. Health, according to the World Health Organization (WHO, 1999) is defined as complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity. The FRN (2014) sees health as the total well being of an individual. In this context, it is the extent to which the child aged 0-5 years is assisted to be free from sickness and is able to resist it. To maintain good health, adequate nutrition is needed.
Nutrition is concerned with food nutrients and other substances and their roles in the maintenance of good health. According to the FRN (2014), nutrition is the science of food, its composition, and utilization. WHO (2013) maintained that nutrition is the intake of food, considered in relation to the body’s dietary needs. It can be seen as food and other substances eaten by a living being. Food is anything taken in (ingested) that is useful to the body and will provide energy that builds, nourishes and protects the body (FRN, 2014). It is evident that every living being needs food as an indispensable source of nutrient. This implies that nutrients from food supplies the body with energy, supports growth and maintains the body. Most infants get their nutrients through breast feeding.
Breastfeeding is feeding of infants or young children with breast milk from female breasts (i.e. through lactation). The sucking reflex enables babies to suck and swallow milk instinctively (Savona, 2004). Some mothers express (expel) milk to be used later when their children are being cared for by others. This can be done either by hand or by using a breast pump. Breast milk is liquid like water. Water is an essential part of food nutrient. Water is an indispensable substance for human existence as it constitutes 75% of liquids in the human body (FRN, 2014). Water, apart from drinking is highly needed for maintenance of clean and disease-free environment. Thus water is very necessary for adequate sanitation in child care centers.
Sanitation refers to the process or act of keeping the environment clean. According to FRN (2004), sanitation is the act of observing basic hygienic principles to maintain healthy environment. Care givers equally ensure that the child is immunized. Immunization (or vaccines as it is also known), is safe and effective use of a small amount of a weakened or killed virus or bacteria or bits of lab-made protein that imitate the virus in order to prevent infection by that same virus or bacteria. According to WHO (2012), immunizations protect people from serious diseases and also prevent the spread of those diseases to others. The immunization process and other activities of the care centers are recorded and safe guarded.
Record books comprise all those important books which must be seen in the ECC centres for proper documentation. According to Isakwe (2011), records books are official documents, books and files containing essential and crucial information of actions and events which are kept and preserved for utilization and retrieval of information when needed. The National Minimum Standard prescribed that they must be kept in every ECC centre for proper recording and easy administration in the centre. These records are very important for proper management of activities in the centre. According to Durosaro (2002), records are important tools for effective planning and administration of a school. School records occupy strategic position in the effective and efficient organization and administration of the school because they contain the planning and implementation of appropriate course of actions allowing proper monitoring of activities/tasks. Going further, the author noted that records are important because they serve as major information tool that sustains the school, and aid in achieving educational goals and objectives. Records restore teaching competence and maintain the trend in the history of teaching and learning processes. Such record books include; Admission registers, child folders, teachers’ record books, among others. The record books are expected to be securely protected.
Protection of the children and school environment is another major aspect of rendering care and nurturing to children in the centre. According to Merriam-Webster (2015), protection is the state of being kept from harm or something that keeps a person or thing from being harmed or lost. Protection ensures proper security of children from hazardous animals, humans, kidnappers, outside interference of animals and protects children from straying outside. UNICEF (2013) uses the term child protection to refer to preventing and responding to violence, exploitation and abuse against the child. Protection ensures that the children are not exposed to dangers in the ECC environment. This protection is also extended to Instructional materials provided in the centres.
Instructional materials are materials which are needed for providing psychosocial care (education). They are materials for teaching and learning. These materials, according to FRN (2014), promote the children’s mental and social development by being responsive to the children’s needs and care and stimulating the children through talking, playing and other interaction. Every teacher needs supplies and resources in order to have a successful classroom. According Jona (2015), instructional materials are the tools used in educational lessons, which include active learning and assessment. Basically, any resource a teacher uses to help him teach his students is an instructional material. There are many types of instructional materials such as graphic organizers, teacher-made resources, among others.
The ECC centre is expected to have such an environment that will support good health, nutrition and protection of the children. Such facilities like toilets for teachers and children, sanitary facilities like toilet rolls, water, soap and wash hand basins must be provided. The toilet facilities like pit latrines must be properly covered, locked and secured. In order to enhance proper care and nurturing of the children in the centre, the material requirements on protection, nutrition, health, safe water and environmental facilities, materials for record keeping and adequate instructional materials must be available and utilized (Bose, 2008). Availability in this context refers to materials or facilities that must be readily found or accessible for use in the centre. Utilization is using the materials/facilities in practical terms in the ECC centres. It refers to freedom and ease to use the materials. The researcher therefore, intends to appraise these centres to find out their extent of availability and utilization.
Appraisal is an assessment or estimation of the worth, value, or quality of a person or thing. It is a process that involves the collection, processing and interpretation of results from measurement of various aspects of educational objectives in order to establish the value, level or worth of progress made by or changes observed in individuals (Joshua, 2005). Appraisal in this study means the ability to collect, analyze and interpret data concerning the availability and utilization of material requirements in ECC centres in public primary schools in Obollo Afor Education zone.
ECCE has been established in all the 233 public primary schools in Udenu Central Education Authority (Udenu Central Education Authority, 2015), but materials and facilities appear not to be supplied to the schools. There appears to be inadequate number of qualified and experienced teachers. Some teachers seem to teach without instructional materials and there are no prepared environments for the children. In the education authority there seems to be inadequate number of school buildings/accommodation for the children, and some of the buildings are dilapidated. In view of this, it is obvious that the challenges of ECC centres in Udenu Central Education Authority are enormous. It is the worry of the researcher that in public primary schools, in the education authority some of the material requirements for the running of ECC appear to be either unavailable or available but not utilized. The researcher is appraising early child care centres in the public primary schools in Udenu Central Education Authority to find out the degree of the availability and utilization of material requirements in such centres.
Statement of the Problem
Since education is an instrument ‘per excellence’ for effecting national development, it is imperative that every citizen of Nigeria be accorded a right to quality education. It is in realization of this that the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) set out the National Minimum Standards for Early Child Care Centres in Nigeria to be a guild for the operation of ECC programme and centres so that the programme will become standardized and beneficial to the Nigerian child. The document prescribed in detail the material requirements needed for the proper care and education of the children in the centre.
It is unfortunate that in spite of numerous policies formulated by the government in respect to ECCE programmes and the stipulated minimum standards for running these early childcare and education centres in Nigeria, the Nigerian child appears not to be receiving adequate care and education during the early years of his development. The researcher’s personal observation and interaction with the early childhood caregiver’s (teachers) show that the programme is well designed but there appear to be lapses in the centres. Some of the lapses observable include situations where some children receive care and lessons in unprepared and dilapidated buildings while some centres are located in unconducive environment such as market places and road sides. There appear to be inadequate number of qualified and experienced teachers. Some teachers are seen teaching without instructional materials and standard curriculum, and there are no prepared environments for the children. In Udenu Local Government Education Authority, there appear to be inadequate number of school buildings/accommodation for the children and some buildings are dilapidated. Sequel to these, the researcher appraised the child care centres in public primary schools in Udenu Local Government Education Authority vis-à-vis the national minimum standards set by the federal government for the establishment and running of such centers.
Purpose of the Study
The general purpose of this study was to appraise early childcare centres in public primary schools in Obollo Afor Education zone of Enugu state. Specifically, the study:
- Determined the availability of record books in early child care centres.
- Examined the availability of protection materials in the centres
- Ascertained the availability of water and environmental sanitation in the centres
- Examined the availability of instructional materials in the centres
- Ascertained the availability of health materials in the centres
- Investigated the availability of nutrition materials in the centres
- Determined the extent of utilization of record books in the centres
- Examined the extent of utilization of protection materials in the centres
- Ascertained the extent of utilization of water and environmental sanitation in the centres.
- Examined the extent of utilization of instructional materials in the centres
- Ascertained the extent of utilization of health materials in the centres
- Ascertained the extent of utilization of nutrition materials in the centres
Significance of the Study
This study has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, the study is hinged on Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Peaget’s theory holds that a child goes through four stages of cognitive development as it actively constructs his understanding of the world. The findings of this study will validate this theory or invalidate it.
Practically, the finding of this study will be of enormous benefit to the ministry of education and its agencies, ECCE teachers/caregivers, parents, the general public, and future researchers. The finding of the study would help the ministry of education to know the problems of ECCE centres in the public primary schools. This information will help those concerned in planning the curriculum of ECCE to know the area of emphasis while planning the curriculum. It would also acquaint the supervising unit with the area of emphasis while supervising the ECC teachers. It would help them make necessary suggestions to the government. The findings of the study will get to the ministry of education through publications, organization of workshops, conferences, and seminars.
ECCE teachers/caregivers will find the results of this study useful. Many of the public primary ECC teachers may have not been aware of the National Minimum Standard. This finding will therefore expose them to the need for this document. Hence, they would be provided with more information on issues relating to improvement in the centres. It will help the teachers to integrate all the policy stipulations to achieve their targets. The findings of the study can get to the teachers/caregivers through the organization of workshops, its publications, conferences, seminars, and P.T.A meetings.
The findings of this study will serve as a source of information to the parents. Many parents may not be aware of the prescriptions of the document for their children. The finding of the study will expose to them what they ought to provide for their children in the centres. The information will enable parents to be acquainted with the need for the requirements on protection, nutrition and health for their children in the centres. The findings of the study can get to the parents through publications, organization of workshops, conferences, seminar, community enlightenment programme and P.T.A meeting.
The findings of this study will contribute significantly to the knowledge of the general public on the importance of good health, good nutrition and adequate protection, safe water, immunization and environmental sanitation in spurring the child’s competencies and development. Other beneficiaries of this study are future researchers. Future Researchers will find the findings of this study useful when placed in the libraries or the internet in the sense that it will help them in future and further research in other areas or similar topics. The literature to be provided by the findings will assist future researchers in review of literature for their own study.
Scope of the Study
The geographical scope of study covers early childcare centres in public primary schools in Udenu Local Government Education Authority of Enugu state. The study appraised early child care centres in Udenu Local Government Education Authority, especially with regards to the availability and extent of utilization of requirements on nutrition materials, record books, health materials, protection materials, water and environmental facilities and instructional materials.
The following research questions guided the study;
- What are the record books available in early child care centres?
- What are the protection materials available in the centres?
- What are the water and environment sanitation available in the centres?
- What are the instructional materials available in the centres?
- What are the health materials available in the centres?
- What are the nutrition materials available in the centres?
- To what extent are record books utilized in early child care centres?
- To what extent are protection materials utilized in centres?
- To what extent are water and environmental sanitation utilized in the centres?
- To what extent are instructional materials utilized in the centres?
- To what extent are health materials utilized in the centres?
- To what extent are nutrition materials utilized in the centres?