From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja

You would see them sleeping and drooling as their parents drop them off at their primary school very early in the morning. Pupils just barely out of diapers, aged between three and four years, forced into nursery/primary education just because they can talk and walk.

This is a typical scenario in most private schools in Nigeria.

Children that should be allowed to enjoy enough sleep are woken up at unholy hours to prepare for school.

Sociologists and educationists are worried that these kids, who are the future of the country, are not sufficiently prepared for the task ahead as they are exposed to a short-circuited educational system and near-zero home training. No thanks to rich and busy parents who chase money instead of children’s wellbeing.

Another troubling challenge is that, while in school, some pupils are made to skip classes on the pretext that they are intelligent. In the end, these children end up becoming academically rich but socially, psychologically and emotionally bankrupt.

In developed climes, children’s education, especially primary and secondary school, run on a well-designed structure. There are established, strict templates, especially the minimum entry age. In some American states, the minimum entry age for primary school pupils is between five years.

In the United Kingdom, six years is the least accepted entry age.

However, in Nigeria, the direct opposite is the case as rich and busy parents bribe their way into primary schools to enroll their underage wards and flout the curriculum.

At a recent seminar in Abuja to commemorate the World Child’s Day, experts said rushing a child through school, among other effects, can induce mental stress and low emotional intelligence that could lead to domestic violence, drug abuse and even suicide.

In her remarks, the chief executive officer (CEO) and founder of A Mother’s Love Initiative, Hannatu Ewenmadu, said psychosocial maladjustments are inflicted on adolescents and youths as a result of hurrying them through their educational and developmental milestones, which threaten their existence and wellbeing.

She said: “Based on the research we did, we are saying, when you hurry children through childhood, it has an impact on their social and emotional development, which affects them as they progress.

“Because we are hurrying our children, you see children around the age of eight in secondary school after skipping four years in primary school, and it has a huge impact on the Nigerian child, which also affects our country.”

She ended her submission by urging parents to bury the idea of rushing children through school as the demerits outweigh the merits, if any. She insisted that there was no justification for trading a child’s mental health.

“Parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers, school owners, and all stakeholders should celebrate each Nigerian child, celebrate their moments and stages of lives, and allow children to grow at their pace,” she said.

Also reacting to the worrisome development, Adeyemi Adebayo, teacher development specialist and a director at the Lagos State Ministry of Education, explained that hurrying children through school allows them skip critical stages of learning that should make them emotionally mature, capable of handling marital affairs and withstanding the pressures of life.

“When you see parents hurrying their children to go to school, they are considering their growth but not considering their development. Psychology tells us that every child has three domains of development. You have the cognitive domain, which has to do with mental ability, you have the affective domain, which has to do with feelings and social relationships, and you have the psychomotor, which has to do with the kinesthetics, the use of hands.

“So, parents that emphasize the cognitive abilities of the children are only sending their children to school and promoting them based on 33 per cent of what the children are able to do.

“So, you see that the society is crowded with malnourished children. Malnourished not in terms of the body but of the mind. When you see a young man, very intelligent, he gets to the university at 14 and he leaves before 19 and when he gets married, he begins to beat his wife and you begin to wonder why despite his intelligence. 

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“He is simply emotionally deficient. So, it is a child that is fully developed in all these three areas that you can call a properly formed child,” he said.

Adebayo said there was urgent need for government to intensify efforts in monitoring schools and creating awareness to ensure that schools in the country adhere strictly to Nigerian school curriculum.

According to him, “There is nothing wrong with our curriculum. The Nigerian curriculum will address Nigerian problems. The advice to the government is that there should be proper monitoring of schools. I think private schools are more guilty of enrolling children that are underaged because they want to make money. So, government should come out strongly, advise them as well; they should  know the implications of what they are doing,” he said.

Also commenting, the director, Bankys Private School, and immediate past chairman, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, FCT Chapter, Olusola Bankole, disclosed that some parents go to the extent of forging birth certificates for their children to shorten their years in school. She said such actions were among the reasons for so much moral decadence in society today.

“Hurrying child is taking a child out of their stage. It is not allowing children to be children. It is making children become adults in a hurry. Letting them miss the place that they should be and this creates a lot of problems. I left primary school when I was in grade four so I missed two classes. And I didn’t get over it until I left the university. I had to pay the price. There were many things I didn’t know because I was not mature enough.

“Parents are most guilty of this. You see parents going to the extent of forging a birth certificate to increase the child’s age. I have had an experience in my  school. I had to tell the parents to take their child away. They even told the child to lie about his age when asked. This is why our values are eroding. You see kids who have an entitlement mentality and cannot take responsibility,” she said.

Meanwhile, a lot of parents have given  varied justifications for rushing their child through school.

Mrs. Lami Yaro, a Suleja-based nurse and mother of three, said she believes women have a shorter lifespan and so girls should be rushed through school to enable them finish school on time and marry in their prime: “I think girls should not be allowed to spend too many years in school because they have limited time to be able to find a life partner, unlike their male counterparts.

Also, gaining admission is not easy these days in Nigeria . Sometimes, a child spends years at home. Strike in the university system is another thing to consider. I have two boys and a girl. She is currently seeking admission while the boys are still in secondary school. I made sure my daughter finished secondary school at age 14. She skipped two years in primary school and one year in secondary school. So, by the time she graduates she will still have enough to settle down”.

Mr David Folaranmi, an anti-drug abuse advocate and also a parent said, “I subscribe to child rush, even if I feel the capacity of the kids are different. Some can handle the stress while some can’t, but there should be a standard.

“I think because some parents were delayed or didn’t complete their education they tend to rush their kids all in the name of giving them good and fast education, putting so much pressure on them.

Unfortunately some do it to save money”

For Mr Chika Otuchukwukere, a journalist and a parent, “most parents, especially those with kids in private schools, hurry them to escape the financial burden that comes with paying exuberant school fees.

“There are several reasons traceable to the behavior. A lot of times, the age of the pupil is considered. Other times, it is the child’s performance in the previous class. In today’s Nigeria, the most prevalent reason is the financial consideration and not even the child’s capacity that counts.

“A lot of people see it as an opportunity to escape paying the high fees that schools charge these days.

“Although, the reasons cannot be tenable because education is a scientific process during which a lot could be distorted if skipped without expert view. A child should be encouraged to pass through all the classes and stages and acquire all the knowledge inherent in those classes”, he noted.

Nonetheless, Mr Otuchukwukere has a word for parents.

He advised them to know their kids’ capacities and make decisions based on a specific child’s capability.

“Don’t compare them with other kids, not even their siblings”, he implored.


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