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By Gabriel Bright Dumaka, member of Senate of University College London (UCL) Institute of Education and and early years Education Specialist as well as a member of London Center for Leadership and learning.
The author of this paper comes from the Early Years education background and draws his analogy from numerous established findings that prove that “returns on investments in early years education of children is far greater than many other sectors. This paper therefore makes a case that Nigeria will maximize their potential for greatness through a sustained strategic long term planning and implementation of an Early Years Education policy. There is evidence to show that such a project would translate to gains in so many areas.  It argues that the society as a whole would be far stronger as a cohesive and leading force if this is made a priority project undertaken by the stakeholders responsible for the communities.
The paper explores the challenges facing Nigeria and proposes an approach towards bringing a lasting solution. While it does not prescribe a one-step key to the issues we face as a nation; it nevertheless highlights the essence and important components of a successful societal development of the entire country in terms of speedy and sustainable development which appears to be a necessary consequence of a long term strategic plan. To that extent, the paper aims to propose among others, a formulation and or review of our Early Years curriculum to include a strategic plan to inculcate in our children, sound ethical and moral values that make for sustained development. In addition, it makes the case for the re-evaluation of community values by policy makers, stakeholders and adults in general to consciously adopt a long term strategic plan to maintain those values that make us dynamic and enterprising as a community but change the ones that adversely affect us.The West do it– British Value
2) Why the Issues discussed here are Relevant
There are many reasons why the audience should deem the issues addressed in this paper as a concern both individually, collectively as a people. The questions around standard of educational qualification from our universities and other tertiary institutions remain issues that thwart our societal progress by giving rise to increased unemployment, crime, corruption, the lack of adequate infrastructures for industries, human Capital drain. Other challenges include the desperation for instant wealth and its impact on our image both nationally and internationally, the effect of operating as a closed community as opposed to an open-style model and the Political consequences of closed-community-style model. As such, it is necessary to take positive actions to change the downward trend in the success our country. 
The writer will challenge the audience to look inwardly at every facets of the culture and tradition of our society and apply the outcome to a long term strategic plan for sustainable development.
3) Are there any Consequences of Inaction?
It is arguable that Nigerians are uniquely gifted but like many such gifted and people, there are challenges that threaten to quench our progressive abilities and inhibit our economic potentials. As noted earlier, Anambra State as a community is the chosen case study for this paper. They aptly represent Nigeria which ideally should be the focus of this paper in terms of the objectives. In addition, it is ideal for a project of this nature to be started with a pilot and as such, it is important that the pilot should be representative of the country: both from the perspective of the challenges, prospects and dynamism. While it is accepted that Anambra State cannot be said to be a mirror image of Nigeria; they nevertheless best represent some of the known traits of the country and there is arguably no single tribe in Nigeria which can be said to capture the essence of the diverse country.
A summary of the challenges that face the Anambra State reflect the same challenges that Nigeria faces, albeit in different facets or magnitudes. We will briefly set out a few of these challenges from the perspective of Nigeria and Anambra State in particular.
There is a glaring lack of infrastructures in Nigeria and the Eastern region. The state of the road network is pathetically dangerous. It appears that successive governments (both local and federal) have failed to effectively address this problem. The absence of a crucial communication facility affects the economy and human resource development. The persistence of the problems indicates that the country has been unable to produce effective and selfless leaders for more than 40 years. 
The key underlying contributing factor for the poor road network in the country may be the lack of effective leaders and this in effect translates to the consequence of the serious educational limitations that begin from the early years. The country boasts of several universities. Nonetheless, it does not appear that the products of the universities are contributing to the society at the rate expected. The real issue here is not in the number of the universities available; rather there is an issue with the quality of the education in terms of practicality (employability, entrepreneurial capacity and understanding). Further concerns in the area of limited education are the high rate of college dropouts and youth unemployment.  When youths drop out of tertiary education or fail to proceed to post secondary education, then it becomes even more important that they had the privilege of Early Years education where they would have been trained in the basic life skills and disciplines that would help them succeed in life and be productive.   
Another challenge that exacerbates the above issues of limited education is Human Capital drain. Hence it is particularly disturbing when a country looses its human capital especially the trained and educated that make up the skilled labour market. These potentially would have had their educational trainings in the country prior to leaving to go to foreign countries due to the absence of opportunities and other reasons.  
The wrong concept of success in the society is a challenge that has to be addressed from its root through early education of the core values of a morally stable society. Igbos and Nigerians a s whole have permitted the wrong motivation to be the driving force of its individual and very rarely collective quest for success. The average Nigerian is desperate to get rich quickly. As such, there is an inordinate desire to acquire wealth as the ultimate prize. Success has now been connoted with wealth and this has had adverse impact on our image. The quest for wealth has led several young men to various nefarious ventures such as fraud, drugs and the like. Elected political leaders have resorted to individual aggrandizement rather than selflessly serving the electorates. Ultimately, this has become a stigma that is associated with the country. It is nevertheless one that may be corrected by inculcating the correct human values in the child through Early Years education. Children who undergo early years education as will be shown subsequently tend to have the values that ensure that they are drawn towards virtue rather than vice in latter life.  
These challenges stated above are not all that face the society. However, they represent a significant portion and the others may in many ways be strands of the above summarized challenges.  Furthermore, they highlight the need for a collective and sustained policy of an effective implementation of Early Years education in the country.
4) The Case for a Policy of Early Years Education
The challenges facing the Nigeria are diverse but not insurmountable. However, to address and tackle these challenges one has to look at the future and set the structures to comprehensively counter these issues from the root. It is arguable and strongly supported by empirically research below that a policy of organised early years education program is a critical factor in resolving the myriad of challenges. There are three ways in which it provides  a platform for the repositioning Anambra State for sustained generational success.
i.                    The Capacity of Early Years Education to lay a foundation for success in life
The regional Governments of the Canadian state of Victoria in a  study stated the basic and generally accepted believe that the right start in life sets a child on to the path to success as it provides them with the necessary skills sets to thrive at school, stay healthy, socially connected and contribute to the society.[1] The paper further highlighted that the benefits of educating our children in the early years of life have been made more glaring as a result of recent advancement in economics and sciences that different researches have shown on the importance of the first years of life.[2] At the same time, when a child looses this opportunity in this period (between birth and 5 years old), as is common in our community and in fact most of Africa, it is very difficult for that child to recover. The environment that a child spends his or her early years, strongly shapes the probability of success in their future health, wellbeing and general development.
The pace of physical development especially brain development is rapid in the early years of life. It has been asserted that a key influence in how a young child's brain structurally and functionally develops is traceable to his/her experiences. Therefore, providing a stable and stimulating environment with diverse opportunities to interact with other children leads them to develop relationships in their lives which ultimatelyposition them to excel in life.
These basic foundations that a child develops such as language growth and ability to regulate emotions act as the platform for the development of the more advanced skills essential to success in education and life.[3]
ii.                  It is critical to life’s chances and can prevent some societal Challenges
The second way Early Years education can contribute in the resolution of the society’s challenges in that it is critical to a child’s future success. As noted above, a stimulating Early Years educational environment will facilitate a child’s success in life in general. In particular it was highlighted that such a child will be better positioned to succeed socially and academically and more importantly economically.
Given that a massive programme of early years education is made available in a given society, the benefits will be to the individual children families and that society. Therefore, it is logically to argue that if the Anambra State can pull resources together and set up a sustainable programme of free early years   education; then it is highly probable that the foundation will be set for a progressive, prosperous and successful generation of future Anambra State merchants, engineers, doctors, footballer and other skills in the society. What is certain is that such a successful blueprint will project us as the epitome of success in comparison to other African nations.
The efforts to provide better platform for future generation of Anambra State to fulfill their potential and dominate in diverse socio-economic landscape of the Nigerian and in fact African can only start from Early Years education in such a scale that is pervasive and available to every household. Such Early Years education for our children will provide the platform to fulfill their potential as noted earlier.
iii. The Economic Viability of Early Years Education Programme.
There is enormous empirical evidence to show that investing in early years education programme does not only help the individual child but it “is a vital driver of economic growth, productivity and social progress”.[4] There is a consensus among scholars that the investment in Early Years education will be both cost effective and provide huge returns on investment. Let’s review a few of the influential research on the economic benefits of Early Years education.
A starting position will be to indicate that there is general expert consensus that it is somewhere between economically worthwhile and imperative to invest more heavily in the very earliest months and years of life. Hence we will summarize some approaches in order to evaluate the outcomes of early years’investments.
a)   The first approach that is reviewed for our purposes provides recommendations that are the most cautious of all the studies examined. Its research shows that returns on investment on well-designed early years’interventions significantly exceed their costs. It estimates that such returns are between 75% to over 1,000% higher than costs. It argues that “where a whole country has adopted a policy of investment in early years’prevention, returns are not merely financial but in strikingly better health for the whole population. The benefits span lower infant mortality at birth through to reduced heart, liver and lung disease in middle-age.”[5] Therefore this demonstrates that any efforts towards early years education project will also reap other rewards including on the health of the society. This resonates with the philanthropic aspirations of this group in terms of the medical missions that is being carried out.
b)       Another study undertaken by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in collaboration with Rolnick& Grunewald was undertaken from an economic/financial perspective argue that “the significantly higher returns found from early years’programmes compared to most public investment is evidence that society is not spending enough on the early years –and that to do so is sound financial policy.”They conclude that the Internal rates of return for those early years’programmes evaluated exceed both: Stockmarket returns, and returns from typical public policy investments.
c)    James Heckman, who won the Nobel prize for economics provides a study taken from an economic efficiency and skill formation perspective, rather than avoiding social dysfunction. As such, his argument is that the financial returns on early years investment is at its highest for children aged 0 to 3 years and that it diminishes with age.
d)   A study by Harvard University Center on the Developing Child (2007, 2010) bases its case on the science of neurobiology: the basis being that because the infant (and human) brain is built from its basic structures upwards, each new stage depends on the quality of the preceding stage. This means creating the right conditions for early childhood development is likely to be more effective and less costly than addressing problems at a later age.
e)   One of the most specific empirical studies on this issue involved the observation of the Chicago Child-Parent Center Program by scholars led by Reynolds. They found benefits of more than $80,000 per child, with $10.80 of benefits per $1 invested.[7] They also found that children with four or more family risk factors yielded almost double the benefits of those with fewer ($12.8 vs. $7.2 per $1 invested).[8] Children from the highest poverty neighborhoods had returns more than four times higher than those from less disadvantaged areas.[9]
f)     The findings of the team led by Reynolds of the Chicago Public School system can be said to quite significant in that it was a focused 4 decades study of an established public educational structure and practice rather than an isolated pilot scheme.[10]The Washington State Institute for Public Policy takes a rigorously conservative stance to programme evaluation, based on an absolute ‘no false positives’approach. It arguably under-states by some margin the value of preventing child abuse and heavily discounts, or disqualifies, the research findings of many early years’practitioners. Even with these restrictions, it still finds positive benefit to cost ratios for a range of early years’programmes, ranging from $1.75 per $1 invested from Parents as Teachers through $3.23 per $1 invested for Nurse Family Partnership and $7 for Parent Child Interaction Therapy to $10.32 per $1 invested for Level 4 Group Triple P.Their methodology and mandated legislative focus lead them to recommend many more teen than early years’programmes. Such interventions should not be seen in terms of either/or; both provide higher returns to society than the bulk of public and private investments.
It is arguable that if this theory that drives western economies to develop a clear plan for early years education and to fund it (eg in England the government funds 50% of the education of 3-5years olds and 100% of those in primary and secondary schools) are true in relation to the benefit of early years education to the success of the child. It is therefore arguable that the Anambra State and indeed Nigeria can develop a head start over other tribes and nations in Africa if we were to plan and implement a viable programme of Early Years education such that every family rich or plan will benefit by sending their babies/toddlers to the funded nurseries. In fact, the benefits far outweigh society and social ones to even include economic returns on the investment. Perhaps, this presentation would challenge Anambra indigenes in the diaspora in collaboration with the state government to initiate a pilot scheme of free Early Years education in the state. There is no doubt that in line with the earlier scholarly research, that the state will reap enormous socio-economic dividends. 
Footnote : Gabriel Bright Dumaka , is from Nri, Anaocha local government area of Anambra state.
He is a London based early years Education Specialist and a member of London Center for Leadership and learning. He has served in various high profile positions including member of Senate of University College London (UCL) Institute of Education.
He is also as Associate Minister in Prayer City, Kingsway International Christian Center (KICC), London. He is as well a Philanthropist and a Humanitarian with special expertise in Agriculture, Hospitality and Tourism Industry.
He was one of the Pioneer managers of Nike Resort Hotel, Enugu. He came to Nigeria with Anambra state Association Worldwide (ASA-Worldwide) of which he is a member on medical mission to Anambra state where he delivered this paper at the capacity building workshop, ASA-Worldwide Summit tagged Anambra Development Initiative towards ASA-world think home philosophy, held at GeoGold hotel Awka.
Before the summit, ASA-World had visited 5 communities including Oko, Abagana, Ihembosi, Obosi and Ozubulu as well as Oba and treated 5,000 patients suffering from different ailments.
ASA-Worldwide and ASA-USA President, Dr Nwachukwu Anakwenze who led the delegation to Nigeria said the medical mission cost them 800,000 Dollars in diagnostic equipments and drugs for the service of humanity and is supported by ASA-World membership countries in 27 countries of the world including but not ,limited to China, Dubai, Canada and Switzerland to mention but a few.


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