Community participation critical to early childhood education – CSACEFA
What are the aims of your organization?
CSACEFA is a network of about 600 NGOs working in the area of education across the nation. We believe that in today’s knowledge driven economies, education is the key to success. We conduct advocacy on the expansion and improvement of comprehensive education.
The coalition came into being in 2002 and since then, it has been in the forefront of driving education agenda and we have tried to build the capacity of civil society organizations across the nation. We were able to provide the necessary support required by the organization to influence government decisions on education.
What is your take on government’s decision to offer free meals to primary school pupils?
It is a good programme and I know the Federal Government had proposed a similar initiative in 2007. There were various successes recorded in various states that implemented school feeding progmmes in terms of increased enrolment but the problem was that most states could not sustain the project and that led to its collapse. What I mean by that is that now we have high students enrolling in schools but we don’t have the necessary facilities to take care of these children. The government should put in place measures to manage school enrolment Chioma Osuji is the Policy Advisor of a non-governmental organisation, Civil Society Action Coalition on Education For All (CSACEFA). She speaks on early childhood education, the proposed primary school free feeding programme and Almajiri education system in the country. and further motivate parents in the rural areas to send their wards to schools. So, the programme is good and if we put in good strategies to back it up, it will enhance quality education. Another thing is that community participation in it is very important and people must avoid politicizing it. Communities must see it as good thing and also contribute to its success.
A lot of
have expressed concern over the quality and safety of the meals to be given to pupils. What measures do you think both government and the schools should take to improve the nutritional quality of foods?
That is why I mentioned community participation. When you allow the community to have a say in the feeding progrmme, people will detect anything wide of the mark and question the authorities.
On the issue of quality, we were looking at something that is locally sourced. For instance, in the Northern part you have bean cake (Akara). We were looking at something that is cheap and easy, affordable and sustainable. It is not advisable to start giving the pupils imported foods. The management committee of each school will monitor the food to ensure efficiency.
Early childhood education is another aspect that the present administration pledged to promote…
Yes, early quality basic education is necessary because it improves the foundation of the pupils. Therefore, the programme is good. I know that in Nigeria we have gone far on this policy of early childhood education. The policy on early childhood education is facing the problems of poor school infrastructure and inadequate quality teachers. Continuous training and retraining of teachers is also important because we need to adopt modern teaching techniques. Government must tackle the challenges of inadequate learning materials and infrastructure in schools in order to improve basic education.
It seems the government has been silent on the Almajiri system of education for some time now; possibly due to change of government. What do you think should be done to revive it?
I think Almajiri system of education should be looked into because already we have about 10.5 million out-ofschool children. There are also thousands of children displaced by insurgency in North-East region and government has to take adequate measures to take them back to schools.
Government should put in place sufficient facilities and monitor the performance of the Almajiri schools. We still have to take appropriate steps to find out why the children are not going to school, especially the Almajiri schools. I think a lot has to be done on Almajiri education system because it will reduce the number of children roaming the streets or out-of-school children.