At a two-day forum in the state of Sokoto, UNICEF specialist Yetunde Oluwatosin said that the percentage of early childhood learning in the country was "worrisome", with official data showing large inequalities between the poorest and richest children.
"In Nigeria, only one in three children, or 36 percent attend ECE, but at least 10 million children are not enrolled," Oluwatosin said, adding that ECE's attendance rate for the poorest children stood at 8 percent, while that for the richest, 87 percent.
The UNICEF official noted that early childhood was a critical period that any country must pay attention to, with the mindset that doing so would improve the economic outcome of the child. That period must be consciously built to contribute to the child's early transformation.
Seeing this data just showed that the greatest challenge Nigeria is facing is a revenue problem. And the states have a lot of work to do in this regard. Imagine if we have 20 States in Nigeria performing as Lagos is doing... poverty won't be this high. pic.twitter.com/kJiNdRG6PF
"Research has shown that children who attend ECE perform better in the academy and have greater earning potential as they grow over the years," the education specialist said.
Oluwatosin identified the lack of trained teachers, distance to school, and inappropriate curriculum, among others, as barriers limiting the growth of ECE in Nigeria.
"We also need to strengthen the roles of parents as the first educator of the child, provide adequate funding for pre-primary education, build the capacity of teachers and provide adequate curriculum for ECE," she said.