Education of the little tots and their choices

BY: Isaac Yeboah

While Mr Frazier sat smarting at being ignored on a sultry week day at the reception of the Daily Graphic Communication Group Limited, he witnessed a scene that lifted his mood considerably.

A bevy of 24 three-year old angels from Mrs Nyarko’s Mummy’s Glory Montessori of East Legon were on a visit to the media house. Dressed in the manner of professionals of their fancy, the little tots, who were chaperoned by four doting teachers, appeared keen and well-behaved. They were such a delight to behold. 

There were “Doctors” Nana Frema Asante, Joshua Tuwor and five others in spotless white overcoat with a stethoscope hanging pompously on their necks - only one of the instruments was real, though. Amazingly, each tot doctor seemed to be affected by the industrial relations politics of the time and politely withdrew their services when Mr Frazier asked to be attended to! On the contrary, “Nurse” Lordina Enna Wadza did not seem to be on strike and was keen to attend to patients.

 “Her Ladyship” Janet Osei, stern-looking, imperious and elegant in her black robe and wig, cast a portrait of judicial uprightness. “Architect” Juhann Osae Addo, field cap on his small head and his painted handlebar moustache twitching, walked thoughtfully around observing structures as if he was taking mental measurements.

There were others of note who also portrayed real life and not make-believe pictures. Little “President” Darold Marfo Obama, dapper in his well-cut suit sat quietly and posed a figure of diplomatic decorum. There was of course, the “Pastor” of the group, Hezekiah Banson, whose lifted hands in prayerful mood looked like real life. Phoebe Tuwa the musician and “Major-General” Gerald Yang Smith, the Soldier, exuded boundless energy. 

The bank manager and the accountant acted their parts well; by their dress code and comportment they exuded nothing but probity and accountability. They might prove their affinity for figures if put to the test.

One interesting fact was that the medical and legal professions seemed most popular with these toddlers. On the other hand, there were no farmers, teachers or journalists. How come? It appeared that the toddlers were taking to either their parents or family friends whom they see very often. Also, it might be the case that some of them were given names of famous characters who they seek to emulate. 

Or, could it be that the best early childhood care education centres are located at East Legon, Cantonments, Ridge, Nhyiaeso and New Ahensan Estate where the children presumably live? In these communities, toddlers are not likely to see farmers or journalists. But teachers play important roles in the daily life of every child. Therefore, one wonders why the toddlers do not seem to admire them and keen to become one.

Mr Frazier’s mind ran swiftly back to Mrs Amankwa’s Bethel Academy, the modern day care centre in Kumasi where two-year-old Anima, a third generation Frazier is a pupil. Before his encounter with this centre, Mr Frazier had been under the impression that sending off tots of less than five years to day care centres for more than three hours per the working day amounted to an orphanage situation. He is now wiser. A day care centre when run properly should demonstrate the import of the cliché “a home from home.”

The admission of a child to well-run day care centre follows a strict protocol. In view of the growing popularity of such centres, it is important to register the child early to be assured of a place when she/he attains the age two-three years. 

The centre requires the medical history and the particulars of the child’s personal doctor, if any. The profession of the parents and the reason for their choice of the particular institution are also noted. For security, the person who is authorised to bring the child to and pick them each day from the centre must be registered with the centre. The car which will transport her too is required to be registered with the centre.

Each mother brings the child to the centre at 8:00 a.m. accompanied with all the needs: a pack meal of balanced diet suitable for the age and plastic cutlery and dedicated drinking cup. The other accompanying necessities are a set of diaper and additional clothes| for change. The programme of activity of children at those tender ages is not regimented but involves group physical play, singing and recitation of nursery rhymes. They also spend a lot of time with individual play with toys chosen for development of language and association of objects.

Just who sends their children to these early childhood development centres? Though all over the world, educational authorities do recognise early childhood development in their education policies, in Ghana, it seems to be patronised by only working mothers. 

The point must be made that the need to free mothers to go to work alone must not overshadow the benefits of an early childhood centre. Before Anima started attending day care, her vocabulary was quite limited. Food was “hammu,” any animal “shishi,” her grandfather was “popo.” Within two weeks of day care experience, food is now “edwane,” a dog is “Jack” and Mr Frazier is “granpo.” Her favourite rhyme is “a lion, a lion, has a long tail and a big ‘ead…” She is able to say “How are you? ‘I’m fine, thank you and you?” She is normally a light eater but when she sees her friends eating, she is motivated to eat her food. She has put on one useful half kilo of weight. Her plays with her toys in the house are more tactical, arranging each item in a certain order.

If the benefits of these early childhood centres can, thus, be demonstrated, is there not a case to be made for an aggressive crèche and early childhood development centres in poor neighbourhoods?

 Many early childhood education institutions adopt the Montessori system that seeks to develop the natural interests of the child. This requires special training of the staff that handles them. Not every school teacher is suitable. 

The Ghana Education Service, the Ministry for Children, Gender and Social Protection and the Municipal and District Assemblies should take this up urgently.  They must collaborate to ensure that these centres are staffed with well-trained, dedicated and caring staff that must be properly supervised by inspectorate divisions. 

This must not take the onus of self-inspection away from the proprietors of these centres. In well-run modern day care centres, the architecture is such that all activities can be followed with CCTV cameras strategically positioned with monitors in The Director’s and The Chief Security Officer’s offices. It enables them to detect bad and unprofessional practices very quickly and take remedial actions. This is important because the chances of abuse and wrong techniques by poorly-motivated staff cannot be ruled out.

Are our educational policies and practices adequate to train this generation from the age of toddlers to teenagers and “tweenagers” in a way as to give them character and skills to face the challenges of their time?  What would Anima and the tots dressed impressively in the professional habits grow to be, finally?

 Beyond role-acting, it is currently too early for them to understand their world and demonstrate an affinity for a profession. However, there is no doubt that these little children will grow up with the impressions of doctor, lawyer, soldier, nurse and architect impressed on their memory. This is bound to influence their choice of profession.

As I watched the little angels of Mummy’s Glory Montessori of Adjirigano leave, I wondered why none of them had acted the role of journalist. They are certainly too young yet to have heard the epithets, “starvation wage earners” and “soli.” Whatever the impression, journalists who eventually graduate to become good communicators are necessary in our society. At least, they know how to tell a visitor politely that he is unwanted without hurting him.

Written by Joe Frazier

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(Author: Blame not the Darkness)