With almost non-existent education policies for childhood education in Nigeria, childcare services have become a mere patchwork of programs that do nothing to meet the demands of childcare. In Nigeria, a ‘One Year Pre-Primary School Education Curriculum’ was produced in 2014 as a guide to the implementation of a compulsory one-year pre-primary education. In addition, educational policies and guidelines were formulated to guide childhood education in Nigeria however almost all of these policies are not being implemented.
The federal and state governments have jurisdictional authority to ensure uniformity of service, provide operational guidelines, and enforce necessary policies. The Minimum Standard for Early Child Care Centres in Nigeria (NMSECCC) was first published in 2007 and it covers the minimum acceptable standard for the type of center, location, ownership, among other things.
Early childhood learning in Nigeria is expected to include physical, cognitive, psychosocial and language development. But because childcare centers are becoming more profit oriented, they are less likely to provide quality, government approved services. Also, they are more likely to implement activities and services that serve to impress the parents and provide age- inappropriate academic activities rather than provide appropriate nurturing experiences.
Some families may prefer a member of their extended family, a friend, or a nanny taking care of their child instead of enrolling their child in a childcare center. This may partly be because they cannot afford the cost of institutionalised childcare, or they feel more comfortable having a loved one care for their child in their absence. A valid question to ask at this point would then be, ‘is childcare a good option for children and families’?
A good childcare center would help find balance between work and family. A childcare center serves as both a formal and informal support network, a bridge between the family and the environment the child would interact with.
There is an ever-increasing level of stress with families constantly struggling to find work-life balance. Role overload, job stress and dissatisfaction, physical and emotional exhaustion are few of the factors that make child rearing and parenting challenging. A good childcare center should serve as a place for continued learning and support especially when parents feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of parenting.
Gender roles, feminism, increasing divorce rate, educational status, and poverty, have also influenced flexibility in work-home balance. Institutionalised childcare gives room for parents to continue working without taking unpaid leave to raise children whether out of necessity (work-family conflict) or by choice. This is helpful as workers who work part time or take more time off work are less likely to get promoted or get benefits compared to their equally educated and qualified counterparts.
Childcare workers are not just there to change diapers or give parents a comprehensive list of things their children do not do right, rather they should be advocates and teachers. They should promote high moral and personal standards, help the children to socialize in such a diverse and multicultural environment, help them to deal with personal and environmental disadvantages and stress (yes children feel stress too!).
A childcare worker should be warm, attentive, and observant with excellent leadership skills. Under no circumstances should childcare staff raise their voice, fight, or argue in front of the children. And might I add here that children are blank slates and would quickly mop up attitudes and behaviours they see around them. In light of this, other stakeholders in childcare including the parents, teachers, administrators, funding agencies, board of directors, community members should also take more responsibility for making sure that what is written on these blank slates prepare the children to be functional beings in the society.
Dr Omowunmi H. Thanni is a physician with a medical degree from Olabisi Onabanjo University Ago-Iwoye (Mb.ChB. Ogun). She is an Infant and Childhood Mental Health enthusiast who is passionate about supporting children with mental health concerns.
She is also an Early Childcare practitioner with experience observing children dealing with grief, the various psychosocial presentations, and the impact on their families. She is also a Child and Family Volunteer who serves as a healthy support system for children and families who have experienced the loss of one or both parents to terminal illnesses.
She is devoted to debunking cultural myths surrounding childhood mental health and enlightening the community on proper prevention and intervention strategies.