By Hajara M. Sani
Learning to read and write is presently of utmost importance for all human beings as it allows for interaction with one another and it relates to multiple and relevant knowledge. Unfortunately, not everybody has acquired the sufficient basic skills required to read and write and this has contributed to the difficulties many people encounter when trying to further their education later.
Lack of quality in literacy and early learning skills has far reaching consequences on the society; and because education is the essential for national development, there is need to maintain quality at every level of education, especially in the early stages. Once a child misses that early stage to learn to read and write, it is usually difficult to get back to the basis. Mastery of reading in the early years of schooling are crucial factors in the basic foundation to access other types of knowledge. In many cases, they assure a key role in the child’s future endeavors.
Early childhood learning skills programs are a good investment to the society, therefore, the government should ensure adequate finances are allocated to improve the situation of learning reading and writing by ensuring that:
Instructional facilities and reading facilities are adequately upgraded to standard.
Intensive teacher training in literacy instructional practices are definite.
Reading should occupy a place in the curriculum i.e. priority attention to be given to literacy.
Reading clubs should be inspired and encouraged in all schools.
Teachers should receive adequate incentives for work, as this would improve their performance.
Provision of adequate books and annual review/update/upgrade of the books.
It should be generally noted that, quality literacy and early learning skills would provide an environment that allows children reach their future potentials with ease.
Education is very basic to national development therefore; no nation can afford to toil with it. Education is one of the potent instruments for change and transformation in the socio-political, scientific and technological spheres of every nation. Hence, the need for quality in education and this cannot be overemphasized.
Primary education is the foundation of all intellectual development in future; it is the key to healthy development and success in their future schooling. It is therefore, important to begin developing literacy skills in the early years of schooling. It is good for a child to go to school but it is not enough to go to school without gaining the basics of formal education; primary and secondary school aged children are still leaving school without basic Maths and reading skills and this is because of a faulty primary education system. A faulty primary education system can thwart the attainment of the intended outcome of the system; this explains why it is not surprising to see a student of higher institution unable to construct an intelligent sentence. So to say, this is a typical case of “I am in school but I cannot read and write!”
Some contributing factors to the poor state of the primary education system are; lack of political commitment, poor infrastructural facilities, lack of competent teachers and inadequate funding.
Qualitatively, the type of education being imparted to majority of school children is ill-suited to the development need of Nigerians, therefore, we need to act fast and ensure that qualified teachers are employed in our schools. Teachers should be trained and retrained so that reading and writing can be improved in the early years of school. Necessary infrastructure should be provided so that learning can take place in a more hygienic and comfortable environment. The classrooms are congested, there are no chairs and tables in our classrooms, the pupils/students sit on the bare floor, therefore, learning cannot take place in such environments. There is need for increased annual budget in the education system; the minimum benchmark according to UNESCO is that 26% of a nation’s annual budget should be allocated to education; presently Nigeria allocates only about 7% of her annual budget on education which is very pathetic.
In summation, like the Chinese proverb says; “If you are planning for a year, plant rice; if you are planning for a decade plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people”. It is time to make quality education a priority especially as it regards early learning of reading and writing as a priority.
Sani writes from Centre for Girls’ Education, Zaria, Kaduna State