ON 23rd July, 2014, Parliament heard that Government had placed a premium on early education because only the private sector provided it.
According to Zambia Daily Mail, Deputy Minister of the now General Education, David Mubumba, said there were currently 1,658 child education centers countrywide. The importance of early education cannot be over stressed since it shapes the future of the child as it prepares to go into grade one and beyond.
Children coming out of pre-schools which are mostly run by the private sector are often well-behaved, socially interact with teachers and peers at advanced levels, and are literate unlike the majority of children in
Zambia who enter grade one straight from home.
Early education has programmes designed to serve the social emotional cognitive and educational needs of young , developing minds , largely through educational-oriented play and creative learning techniques.
From the time early education was re-introduced, the sector has received a lot of support from the government. As the deputy minister said, 1000 teachers have been deployed across the country so far. Apart from that the Ministry of Education is working with United Nations childrenâ€™s fund (UNICEF) to strengthen existing linkages.
Early education enables children to enter school when they are ready. For too many children who enter grade one are not prepared. This makes such children to lag behind and this may be so for the rest of their childhood. Children who are at risk of not doing well in school gain significant benefits from quality early education if they get it. Besides, early education if well handled, can encourage more exploratory behaviours as it helps adjustment to the demands of formal schooling. Early education has long-term results and implications on cost saving.
Government needs our support in the provision of early education because it is a crucial stage of life in terms of a childâ€™s intellectual, emotional, physical and social development, Growth of mental and physical abilities progress at an astounding rate and a very high proportion of learning takes place from birth to age six. This is a time for learning experiences. That is why it is important for private school owners to ensure early education teachers who handle these little childrenâ€™s education are well trained. The learning capabilities of humans continue for the rest of their lives but not at the intensity that is demonstrated in the pre- school years.
With this in mind, babies and toddlers need positive early learning experience to help their intellectual , social and emotional development and early education lays the foundation for later school success.
Parents need to be interested in the welfare of the child in the first main influence in the childâ€™s learning experience and education. They should also remember that what they expose their children to has an impact on the development of the child.
And they will do well to expose their children to early education, so that teachers who are trained to look after them during early education help the child to to build up confidence and look to teachers for security and care.
Apart from employing qualified teachers and not Grade twelve school leavers, we need to see proper learning and teaching materials.
Though, most private schools are doing extremely well in this aspect. I can attest to this as a parent because all my children pass through early education before proceeding to grade one. At the same time, I have seen some pre-school centers where children just sing the whole day.
There is also need for these private-owned early education centers to pay the teachers handsomely in order to motivate them. It is not good to get a report from your child saying,â€ Teacher X ate my foodâ€, though, children should be taught the value of sharing as Africans.
Lastly, the district education standing officers (DESOâ€™S) and other officers should strengthen monitoring visits of all early education schools and colleges. This will ensure that quality teaching and training is taking place in these institutions.
The Author is a Luanshya based social commentator and history teacher.