The Age of Ignorance and the Death of Childhood: The Early Childhood Development Education Scandal
By Mohamed Haji
The age of ignorance in the era of devolution is characterized more by the Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) fallacy County chiefs are falling over themselves to ‘develop’. They are throwing good money after bad projects and promoting destructive education in the so-called devolved education unit. Pouring imaginary money on building classes and recruiting Early Childhood Education(ECE) teachers appears to be their new tool of looting trade. One would think all our governors are experts on the science of early childhood development with the biggest hearts to see the exemplary development of these small beings. Since devolution and after the unit was devolved, billions were supposedly spent on ECE, building classes and recruiting teachers. This of course is not true but there is much more to come.
This new craze over ECE is hurting both the physical and psychological development of the child and has the added hazard of heaping psychological responsibility on physical projects which sadly in this scenario does not even exist. Firstly, it is unfortunate that governors are using ECE and the future of our children as a conduit to siphon yet more public money. Secondly, with all their loot, county chiefs are not even spending a third of these monies in the county that would at least have been a consolation for our triumvirate loss. If governors and cohorts were to use the money they steal from the county budgets within the counties, the damage of their theft would have been a little easier to mitigate but they are all moving it to Nairobi and increasingly to Arab cities.
More importantly and of course more damaging is that the building of ECE schools, albeit substandard and inadequate, is aiding what has come to be known as toxic childhood. Unfortunately we equate learning to class attendance even at an unhealthy young age. The forcing of very young children away from their families and into institutions like Early Childhood education centres that are not any different from prisons according to how the child perceives is toxic childhood. According to education experts and child development psychologists, children should not be taken into learning institutions before the age of 7. This is an amazing fact. In Islam, our prophet has encouraged us to shower love on our children but particularly for the first 7 years of their lives after which their tender training on learning and behaviour begins. According to neuroscientists, learning to read, write, and compute requires more than academic knowledge; it requires the ability to control your body.
Proprioception which is the sensing of our body parts in relation to each other is the most important function we develop- and it’s vital in the classroom. The brain uses information from proprioception along with information from the vestibular system, which is about the world physically around us by giving us a sense of movement and balance to physically control our bodies and perform complex tasks like walking with our eyes closed or skipping. The creation of proprioceptive pathways in the brain is a normal part of growth but forcing children to learn how to write and read letters before that process is mature can actually inhibit their development. A child without proprioceptive control over their body will have trouble learning letters, not out of any kind of intellectual deficit but because they are unable to perceive their body without moving around. Children without a fully developed proprioceptive system are unable to perceive their bodies in three dimensions; this makes drawing shapes difficult if not impossible. Until they are fully proprioceptively developed, children have to exert immense mental and physical effort to perform basic actions like keeping their eyes tracking the words on a page, even to stay sitting upright. They simply don’t have the brain power to focus on other tasks and so will be easily tired and stressed and have difficulties in social situations. What does this actually mean for the child and for society? It means impeding the most important development aspect of the child and inadvertently hurting the progression of society and the making of a more humane world. Destroying children even before their 5th birthday will result in a world without a future. Child mortality rate are already high in Africa but unknown to authorities on health and education is that malnutrition is not the only cause of those unfortunate deaths.
Toxic childhood and mis-education plays a big role. Theft by politicians does not only cause economic misery for us but the social catastrophe that engulfs our children. We need to rethink education and prioritize the quality of living of our children and society at large. Instead of spending money on building classes for 4 and 5 years old children, county governments could spend that money on the families of those children, for the social amenities such as playgrounds and where the recruited ECE teachers will be available with parents to help the children play. The money should instead be used improving nutrition in families with underage children where families are assisted to buy balanced healthy food. Children must not begin learning in institutions before the age of 7 and parents should be discouraged from taking their children to these schools.