One of the most nerve-wracking moments in every learner’s life is their first day in school, at whatever level of the education system.
This is quite understandable, because it is a foray into uncharted waters away from one’s comfort zone.
One is therefore not quite sure what to expect, what the subculture is, and what new friends there are to make.
Particularly for entrants into Kindergarten (KG) and Primary One, this can be a nervous time.
‘My First Day At School’ programme
To complement the efforts of school leaders to facilitate children’s entry into the education system, the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Ghana Education Service (GES) have collaborated to establish a programme dubbed “My First Day At School”, an annual event to welcome KG and Primary One pupils at the beginning of the academic year.
The occasion provides a platform for the Education Minister, his deputies, other ministers and senior management of the Ghana Education Service to visit public sector schools across the country to interact with the new entrants, distribute educational items and fete them in a relaxed atmosphere of fun to help them settle into their new environment.
The programme is also meant to highlight a number of issues, policies and projects relating to KG and Primary One pupils in particular and create public awareness thereof.
‘Enrol Your Child At The Right Age’ campaign
Experts agree that the right age is 4, and the law, under the Education Act 778 of 2008, which brought the KGs into the basic school stream, reflects this accordingly.
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This means that all parents and guardians must send their children and wards to KG at that age.
As of the year 2016/17, there were about 600,000 children in KG aged between six and 11, meaning they did not enter the school at the right age.
Even worse is the fact that over 350,000 children are not in school at all.
The campaign to get parents to enrol their children in KG at the right age is captured in its hashtags, which are ‘Leave No Child Behind!’ and ‘Start Right, Get it Right!’
Benefits of Right Age Enrolment
According to various studies, Early Child Education (ECE) can help a child learn important skills that will help them become strong, happy and successful in later life.
The exposure to Kindergarten education builds their confidence as they interact with their friends and develop important life skills such as teamwork.
The KG environment also sharpens their natural curiosity about the world around them and further gives them the building blocks of numeracy and literacy skills.
When children go to school at the right age, some of the habits they pick up through group activity, such as washing of hands and be clean, impact positively at home and ultimately on family life.
When a child’s entry into KG is delayed, it implies extra work on the part of the state by way of remedial interventions for the child to catch up. This is because a late starter is likely to find it difficult to catch up or cope with mates younger than him or her.
To bring them up to the level of their classmates ultimately involves extra teaching and learning materials, extra teaching and extra classwork.
All these are costs to be borne by the state.
Age is no limit to education
This is generally true only to the extent that one seeks further education. But for the building blocks at the foundational stages of education, age is certainly crucial and critical to a child’s educational outcomes.
The MoE and GES have collaborated with UNICEF to initiate a National Campaign on Right Age of Enrolment (RAE) to create awareness of the benefits of enroling children in school at the right age.
The government and parents have a collective responsibility to ensure this because ultimately it is society that benefits when its young citizens enter the education system when they have to.
This government’s plan in the Kindergarten sector is captured on page 107 of its 2016 election manifesto, under education. It states:
“We shall embark on a vigorous programme to ensure that Kindergartens are available for all four-year old children in the country.
The training of early childhood and Kindergarten teachers will be prioritised to reflect the importance we attach to the provision of equal opportunities for children from all backgrounds.”
The government remains committed to this promise.
The provision of Kindergartens is only the first step in promoting early childhood development. But it is an important first step nonetheless. Beyond the provision of a place, it is determined to ensure that the right environment and quality direction are provided.
This will ensure that the children receive the right start to improve their performance outcomes, that their interest is sustained and that they will never drop out of school.
the Ministry and the GES have put in place measures to construct 80 KG blocks across the country.
Contracts have been awarded for the construction of 77 of them and works have commenced at 50 sites.
Most of the structures are at the advanced stage of construction.
These KG block sites are located in 61 districts, municipalities and metropolitan areas across the country.
With a growing population of young children seeking to enter KG, there clearly is a need to construct more of such blocks across the country.
The government aims to have a model KG built or attached to every primary school.
Sponsorship & Support
This year’s event is being sponsored by Unicef and Zylophon Media House, with support provided by Guinness Ghana Ltd, Voltic Ltd, Plan International and Izwe Savings & Loans Ltd.
The government is eternally grateful for their support in its drive to ensure that our children go to school at the right age to enable them to derive optimum benefits from early childhood education when it suits them most.
It is our aspiration that this year’s ‘My First Day At School’ event, aside from supporting our new KG and Primary One entrants to assimilate into the educational system, will serve as a catalyst for getting parents to buy into the benefits of enroling their children in school at the right time.
The writer is Press Secretary to the Education Minister.