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Early childhood education offers basket of benefits, prevents dementia

Early childhood is a crucial stage of life in terms of a child’s physical, intellectual,emotional and social development. Growth of mental and physical abilities progress at an astounding rate and a very high proportion of learning takes place from birth to age six.
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According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, quality pre-primary education is the foundation of a child’s journey: every stage of education that follows relies on its success.

Yet, despite the proven and lifelong benefits,more than 175 million children – nearly half of all pre-primary-age children globally – are not enrolled in pre-primary education.Failing to provide quality early childhood education limits children’s futures by denying them opportunities to reach their full potential. It also limits the futures of countries,robbing them of the human capital needed to reduce inequalities and promote peaceful, prosperous societies. Every afternoon,girl children aged 10-12 years hawk food items, and drinks around the Ebute Metta train station.

One of them told Edugist of her intentions to go to school but has no means of doing so. She feels bad when she doesn’t make enough sales in the course of the day. She would say, she is always happy in the evening when passengers come around to use the train.She is about 10 years old and she has been hawking for five years without going to school.Simply put, a child’s early years lay the foundation for all that is to come. In recent years,researchers have learned that the human brain develops the vast majority of its neurons,and is at its most receptive to learning, between birth and three years of age.

In fact, the intake of new information is critical to the formation of active neural pathways (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). Early childhood is a crucial stage of life in terms of a child’s physical, intellectual,emotional and social development. Growth of mental and physical abilities progress at an astounding rate and a very high proportion of learning takes place from birth to age six. It is a time when children particularly need high quality personal care and learning experiences.

What is early child education?

Early childhood education is a broad term used to describe any type of educational programme that serves children in their preschool years, before they are old enough to enter kindergarten.

Early childhood education may consist of any number of activities and experiences designed to aid in the cognitive and social development of preschoolers before they enter elementary school. How and where early childhood education is provided can be very different from one state to the next – or even from one school to the next within the same state. Preschool education programmes may be designed specifically for either 3, 4, 5-year olds, and they may be provided in childcare and daycare or nursery school settings, as well as more conventional preschool or pre-kindergarten classrooms.

These programmes may be housed in center-based, home-based, or public school settings, and they may be offered part-day, full-day or even on a year-round schedule to include summers.

Early childhood in Nigeria

The year 1990s opened a new page for the “Early Childhood Education” this got the United Nations involved and there have been several programmes which were done to make sure that it was fully carried out in many countries and this includes Nigeria and this was discussed under the rights of the child,“Rights of the Child” referring to any human that is below the age of eighteen years of age and they have the right to receive education in schools.

Children are being recognised as holders of rights to survival and development and this has been well stated, they are to be heard in decisions partaking them and there are also primary roles parents and guardians take in the upbringing of children.

The 21st century has come with lots of developments and lots of things about the rights of the child. How many parents have seen the reason why it is necessary for their kids to attend school at an early stage and the positive influence which it has created for them overtime. Many parents have accepted this idea and they have adopted it, many have even said it has made them take up jobs or even resume jobs when they are still too tender to be left home alone.

Early school has made it possible for them to do that,as parents now appreciate this idea which has been not only beneficial to the children but also to the parents. Early childhood education in Nigeria has been gaining recognition.In 1985,Nigeria had about 4,200 early childhood institutions,and by 1992, the number increased to about 8,300. Now, early childhood educational institutions have become so common and located almost everywhere, in various places and buildings. Places such as universities and colleges, premises of some industries,churches,and residential buildings..

What are the benefits of early childhood education in Nigeria?

Many parents in Nigeria are not aware of the benefits of early childhood education to their children. Some do not even see the need for enrolling their children in preschool or kindergarten, as they do not consider this level of learning to be important. This is the wrong notion, as early childhood education is vital to the growth and development of your child.

Children taught at an early age usually benefit in the following ways: improved social skills, less or no need for special education instruction during subsequent school years,better grades, and enhanced attention spans.

Early childhood education key to preventing dementia- Neurologist

An emeritus consultant neurologist, Prof Arthur Onwuchekwa, has said early childhood education is key to preventing dementia later in life. Onwuchekwa, a retiring professor, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Clinical Sciences,College of Health Science, University of Port Harcourt, said this while delivering a valedictory lecture themed, ‘Working towards a healthy brain,’ in Port Harcourt.

Onwuchekwa, who is also a consultant physician neurologist at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, said the brain is the most important organ of the body and the focus of every activity of the human being.While describing dementia as a brain disorder,he said, “Once you have a healthy brain, you have a healthy body. The brain is the only organ that cannot be transplanted.”

He expressed fears that the rate of dementia may rise, saying, “We are seeing it now more than before. It is like an epidemic coming up, but age is a major risk factor for dementia (loss of memory).” He listed some of the causes of dementia as hypertension, diabetes and consumption of junk food, saying, “People who are isolated,and lonely most of the time tend to have dementia due to lack of interaction with others because there is no stimulation of the brain.”

While stressing the need for education and the health of the child,Onwuchekwa stated that “early childhood education is very important in reducing the prevalence of dementia.

“In fact, it has been found that those who attend school between the ages of five and 16 may delay their development of dementia or they may escape it.” On how it can be prevented, he said the government should pay attention to building roads, providing electricity,and setting up farms so that people can stay within their locality and return to stay with their aged ones and be interacting with them. And people should be doing exercise. When they exercise,it helps the brain to improve,because the muscles release some chemicals that work on the brain to make it active.

“But in Nigeria,from what UNESCO has said, Nigeria is the capital of out-of-school children. There are about 20 million out-of-school children. In fact, in the whole world, of every five out-of-school children, one is a Nigerian,” Onwuchekwa stated. He expressed fears that the cases of dementia may rise if the rate of out-of-school children was anything to go by and if not checked.

The emeritus professor further said, “No state is exempt. When they are out of school,there is no mental stimulation. So,in future,we may have more cases of dementia.

“People should sleep well because lack of sleep can also lead to dementia. We also talk about eating healthy diets like vegetables, fruits and grains. Processed food is dangerous to the brain.“We have people who come with many brain disorders, most of them preventable.

The major brain disorders include stroke, which is the second most common cause of death worldwide.“Stroke comes after heart disease and shares the same risk factors of hypertension, diabetes, you know high cholesterol level,” he stated.

The consultant neurologist noted that these were mostly prevented through lifestyle changes including exercises, more intake of natural food and periodic checking of one’s blood pressure.

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