President Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan, former Vice-President of the World Bank, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili; Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke; Chairman of the Empowerment Support Initiative (ESI), Hon. Dakuku Adol Peterside, have joined the Founder of ESI, Mrs. Judith Amaechi, to champion the cause for proper legislation and implementation of investment in early childhood education in the country.
Equally, the wives of state governors, including well meaning Nigerians also backed the early childhood education policy.
Declaring open the third National Conference on Kindergarten Education in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, President Jonathan said sound education, application of knowledge and policy implementation of early childhood education were key in promoting speedy development in the country.
Jonathan, who was represented by the Minister of Youth Development, Alhaji Inumo Abdul Kadir, said: “Education is not a privilege, but an inalienable right of every child. We must make appropriate investments in early childhood education to achieve our lofty goals.”
In her lead paper presentation, Ezekwesili said the importance of education in any economy was the vehicle through which societal development can be achieved.
Ezekwesili listed six core areas of development that can enhance the educational system in the country, namely early childhood education, basic education, secondary education, tertiary education, special education, as well as informal or adult education.
She stressed that early childhood education would address the problems of inequality and societal dislocation, explaining that the review of National Policy on Education was on course.
The former World Bank chief urged Public and Private Sectors, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs), stakeholders and community leaders to take kindergarten education seriously.
Ezekwesili also urged the federal and state governments to make early childhood education accessible as practiced in Finland which has the best early child education in the world.
Also speaking, Chairman Board of Trustees, Empowerment Support Initiative (ESI) and Member Representing Opobo/Nkoro Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Dakuku Adol Peterside, said the event would provide the forum to examine the role of early childhood education in the development cycle of a child.
“If Nigeria is to fulfil its potential, we must unlock the potentials of our children and give them a great head start in life and limitless opportunities. This requires more than the conventional education and industry. It requires systematic planning and early preparation,” Dakuku said.
Dakuku also commended Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, on his support for ESI, stressing that: “The conference will generate new ideas towards creating a new generation of leaders from diverse background equipped to catalyse development, fight poverty and to live a cherished values of integrity, enterprises and excellence.”
On his part, Amaechi said he would soon forward a bill to the state House of Assembly to make education compulsory at all levels.
Amaechi said the move would compel parents to send their children to school from their childhood as offenders would be made to face the full wrath of the law.
Also, the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa’I, said the current administration of President Jonathan was committed to human capacity building and poverty eradication which is directed towards achieving national objectives.
She said early childhood education provides educational growth for children in their formative age, stating that the National Policy on Education had equally made provision for early childhood education in the country.
She identified lack of adequate facilities and lack of qualified manpower as some of the challenges of childhood education. She said plans had already been concluded by the federal Government to work closely with state governments to establish early childhood schools to achieve set target.
The minister also commended the efforts of Amaechi’s wife for taking a lead in actualising the transformational agenda of President Jonathan in the educational sector.
In her welcome speech, Amaechi’s wife said the initiative was targeted at promoting social justice and called for legislative backing to achieve desired results.