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Expanding Access to Early Childhood Education

Favour lives with her parents in a slum in Lagos State. Her father is a bus conductor and her mother hawks carbonated drinks in traffic. Sending her two older sisters to primary school already puts a financial strain on the poor couple, and with this, they simply cannot afford to enroll Favor in preschool.

Like Favour, over 10 million school age children are out of school in Nigeria because their families cannot afford to fund the fees, especially preschool, which is presently not state-funded. There is an urgent need to expand the access of early childhood education as the importance cannot be over emphasized.

Past governments have only always spent a fraction of the United Nation’s recommended national investment on education, and this has had a negative impact on the quality and accessibility to education, especially preschools. Most high quality preschools in the country are privately owned and inaccessible to disadvantaged families because of the cost.

Children are made to stay at home at an age (0-5 years), where research has shown that the human brain is developing – therefore representing a critically important window of opportunity to develop the child’s full potential and shape key academic, social, and cognitive skills that determine a child’s success in life and in school.

This early gap in learning affects a child’s capacity and motivation to learn. The child enters primary school without having the prerequisite skills – reading, writing and a proper introduction to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) – which prepares them for academic work, ignites their curiosity and promotes skills for 21st century: critical thinking, creativity and collaboration.  In extreme cases, children with no preschool education tend to lag behind when compared to those who go through preschools. We are talking about lower grades and perhaps a higher likelihood to drop out of school before they complete basic education. This is more probable for children from disadvantaged families.

A 20-year study in America by Nobel laureate James Heckman and others found that increasing access to early education increases future earnings by as much as 25%. This finding caters to the school of thought that pushes for expanding access to high quality early education, which has been proven by this study as the smartest investments any country can make.

Education helps people improve their life and earn a better living. It means higher incomes, lower poverty rate and less inequality in our society. Education helps to break the poverty cycle. This is why it is very essential to make early education accessible to children like Favour from disadvantaged families.

The earlier the children start school, the more likely they will stick to schooling and go further than basic education, and the more education they get, the better their prospects in future and the more likely they can make life better for their families and the community they come from.

That’s why at the Orderly Society Trust; we are working with our partners through the Preschool4All initiative to expand accessibility to early childhood education. We work with disadvantaged children from slum communities across the country to increase access to non-fee paying, high quality childhood education. The schools make use of our specialised preschool curriculum, which focuses on literacy, numeracy, life science, coding, ethics and practical living. Our goal is to ensure every Nigerian child, irrespective of his or her economic status, is actively engaged with age appropriate technology tools and educational resources in meaningful ways that ignite curiosity and foster skills for 21st century readiness – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

We are launching our preschools in four slum communities in Lagos this January and then we intend to take our program nationwide to give disadvantaged children in all parts of the country the chance to get high quality childhood education.

We would like you to support us on this project, by working with us on designing our preschool class space, educational resources and technological tools to not only redefine early education in Nigeria but to increase access to the most vulnerable of us; children, like Favour from Sagbonkoji, a slum island community in Amuwo Odofin in Lagos.

Please contact us at info@orderlysocietytrust.org for additional information and/or to become a volunteer.

Adesewa is the Programme Coordinator at the Orderly Society Trust and works in Lagos.

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