Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
The federal government has said that five per cent of the 2017 Universal Basic Education (UBE) fund will be committed to the development of early childhood education.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Sunny Echono, made this known in Abuja during the 2017 national conference on early childhood education.
He said the federal government has directed the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to conduct audit of UBE schools both public and private schools.
The minister, who stressed that the huge number of out-of-school children in Nigeria remains a challenge that must be addressed, noted that the conference would create a new path for the early childhood development education.
Also at the conference, the United Nations Childrenâ€™s Fundâ€Ž (UNICEF) said out of 22.2 million under-five children in Nigeria, over 60 per cent of them are at risk of poor development due to lack of early childhood development support.
The UNICEF representative, Mallick Fâ€Žall, stated this at the 2017 National Early Childhood Development (ECD) conference, organised by UNICEF, World Bank and Global Partnership for Education.
Speaking at the conference with the theme â€˜For Every Nigerian Child, Early Years Matterâ€™, the UNICEF representative said over 31 per cent of â€Žchildren under-five years are moderately or severely malnourished in Nigeria.
â€œNigeria is putting its â€Žchildren at risk of under-development, both physically and mentally, because critical national policies are not providing an adequate foundation for their growth. During the first years of a childâ€™s life, the brain grows rapidly. Providing good nutrition, loving care and appropriate play provide solid foundation for a childâ€™s learning and eventual contribution to economic and social growth.
â€œStunting as a result of malnutrition can cause irreversible physical and mental retardation. Even though exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a babyâ€™s life has clearly been shown to improve physical and mental development, the same survey revealed that only 24 per cent of Nigerian children are exclusively breastfed for six months.
He added: â€œWith 90 per cent of a childâ€™s brain development occurring before the age of five years, early childhood experiences can have a profound impact on a childâ€™s development can ultimately impact a countryâ€™s growth.â€