The Magaji Abdullahi Early Childhood Care, Development and Education (ECCDE) Center in Sokoto is a bustling place to spend a typical morning during school hours.
The sight of children aged 3 to 5 moving around in circles, with a mix of routines, traditions, music, movement, conversation, learning and fun is something to watch.
These activities, commonly referred to as the “morning circle,” are a ritual, usually performed in the morning when children come together to enjoy each other’s company and explore their own thoughts and emotions under the guidance of a teacher.
The whole class participates in a circle led by the tutor.
When LEADERSHIP visited the ECCDE center, located in Shagari Community, Shagari Local Government, Sokoto, during a fieldwork session, organized by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the students took turns leading the circle while expressing pleasant looks on their faces.
Travel time from Sokoto to Shagari local government is approximately 40 minutes by car.
When they arrive, the students are seated in a circle on the floor. Most of the time, they would stand in uniformity to match the activity in question with an action on the directive of a teacher.
Zara’u Modi is the instructor leading the students in a song as they take the response with applause and a body demonstration. They talk and listen to her as she performs another theatrical activity and much more.
Besides Modi, there is a 4-year-old girl called Fatima Sani. She dances so elegantly while singing the song in Hausa language, led by her teacher.
Fatima enjoys every moment of the activity and was looking forward to going back to school the next day. Even when the session passed, she continued to clap and reflect on what she had learned.
For her, the ritual encourages her to interact with her friends and teachers in a positive way and to come to school every day.
“I learned to read and write through practical demonstrations and I want to continue reading,” Fatima said succinctly when asked about the process.
However, LEADERSHIP understood that the morning circle was not just about dancing and socializing; it generally follows an established structure that encourages each child to engage in learning through more playful methods.
Circle time is one of the things young children look forward to at school. This is a time of important social interactions between young children, which helps them develop positive relationships with other children through engaging and fun activities.
Preschool circle activities have also been found to keep children busy while facilitating the transition from one part of the day to the next. Circle time is generally light and fun, and is intended to prepare children for learning.
Unlike the Magaji Abdullahi ECCDE Centre, the need for all preschools and early childhood development centers to adopt a morning circle strategy to help children develop social and communication skills cannot be overstated. that will eventually lead them to adulthood.
Given that pre-primary education is a key strategy for improving learning and education outcomes as well as the effectiveness of education systems, there is a need to ensure that the value of play for development and learning is widely understood and implemented in pre-primary sub-sector plans and policies, experts say.
But in the midst of the success story come the challenges. One of the biggest obstacles has been the lack of educational materials to teach children about hunger.
Modi said the school was impacting children’s knowledge through morning circles and also identified lack of water as another challenge as there was no borehole in the school.
“In 2003 I started teaching here and we went through training which helped me to have an impact on children. From the training I learned that you have to prepare children to play to make them understand what they are being taught.When they play, they perform better.
“Every day, what we are supposed to teach them in class, we would already do outside by the game method.”
“We also don’t have a safe place to keep what little teaching materials we have. But despite the shortage of teaching materials, we use the tools available to carry out the teaching. We use stones and other natural tools to apply the teaching,” she said.
However, Farouk Umar, Director of Early Childhood Development, SUBEB, Sokoto, said the state is considering addressing some of the challenges in early childhood education.
“The issue of school feeding is being done in select schools and there is a phased process of doing this to cover the entire state.
“I’m sure we will continue to grow until all schools are covered. We were supposed to be here just after 9am as usually they release them for a break around 9am. That’s why if you look at the kids now, most of them are very hungry, they want to go home because they used to come home at this time.
“There is a need for guidance so that parents and community members are fully informed about the importance of education and in fact that is why we have a plan for basic education in the ‘State.
“Over the past two weeks, we have held a five-day training where we have reviewed the plan and incorporated many awareness activities as part of the ECCDE to ensure greater awareness in the centers ECCDE,” he said.
Meanwhile, UNICEF Education Specialist Yetunde Oluwatosin said the first five years of a child’s life is actually a critical period for him as it is a time for him to develop his development. social, cognitive, emotional and of course physical.
She noted that a child’s experiences at this time have a major impact on their future.
“So now we talk about play-based learning. You find that when a child is able to play in their environment, in the things that are available and in playing with their peers and also watching adults , he is able to develop all these areas and as he grows in life, you see that these areas in them are very well developed.
“We’ve heard over the past few years, particularly after COVID, that there is a global learning crisis and if we have to be honest with ourselves, if we look back at a fundamental level, we find that it’s is actually the root cause if we look at the root cause of this global learning crisis because children who are neither in early childhood education nor in pre-primary education automatically lack certain skills and are left behind for account.
“For us in Nigeria, the 2018 National Personnel Audit conducted by UBEC reveals that there are over 7 million naira of our children in this age bracket for pre-primary education. So, looking at the age group population in Nigeria, you find that only 1 in 3 children attend early childhood or organized learning, so what happens to the rest of the children? »