Over half under five Nigerian children risk growing abnormally – Expert

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Over 60 percent of under-five Nigerian children stand the risk of not developing appropriately due to poor nutrition, a UNICEF Education specialist, Swadchet Sanky has said.

She also said 250 million under-five children globally are unlikely to reach their full potential because their development had been stunted by poor nutrition.

Speaking at a two-day media dialogue on Early Childhood Development, ECD, in Kano on Tuesday, Ms. Sankey said that Nigeria is among the top 10 countries contributing to these huge number of children

She added that most children do not reach their potential because their development has been stunted by “stress, lack of early stimulation and poor nutrition.”

Early Childhood Development refers to the physical, cognitive, language and social and emotional development of a child from age one to eight.

At the dialogue which was organized by UNICEF in collaboration with the ministry of information, Ms. Sankey said the lack of ECD in children also affects the impact on a country’s growth.

“Nigeria does not have the fundamentals in place for a comprehensive approach to ECD, with an integrated multi-sectoral ECD policy, the key indicators of child development outcomes in the country remain low”, she said.

She said that the current policy on ECD is outdated and needs to be reviewed to “contain current thinking and an improved approach to delivering ECD across various platforms in Nigeria.”

She, however, urged Nigerians from all sectors of the economy to work together to ensure the attainment of ECD in children.

Ms. Sankey said there is need to address regulatory issues which would serve as a guide to developing children’s potentials.

“There are regulatory issues and it is the responsibility of the government to impose these regulations; today you see some schools using the Montessori model while others use the American model. There is no (standard) regulation.

“Again, child development is not about biology and genes, it is about the environment, nutrition, and care. ECD is the foundation for attaining sustainable development and we are working with training institutions, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to ensure play-based learning in classrooms,” Ms. Sankey noted.

In his presentation, a UNICEF nutrition specialist, Bamidele Omotola, urged mothers to stimulate their children for proper development, adding that parental stimulation is a major factor in preparing children for the future.

Also, the deputy director of UBEC, Mayowa Aleshi, called for adequate plan and utilization of resources to expand early childhood development.

Mr. Aleshi noted that as at 2014, there were 62,406 primary schools but only 28,026 of them had early childhood care and development education centers.

He said that the centers had 56,588 teachers and caregivers with 74 percent of this population qualified.

He also disclosed that the Nigerian government has set aside two percent of its consolidated revenue fund for the implementation of UBEC Programme Funding. This is broken down to a matching grant of 50 percent, instructional materials of 15 percent; teachers’ development of 10 percent and 5 percent each for the three components on pre-primary schools.

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