Though schools, colleges, and educational institutes re-opened with effect from July 1, all ECCDs are still closed due to fear of COVID-19 pandemic. Though the government informed that private ECCDs can open if owners and parents are willing, not a single center has opened until now.
Pema Dorji, an in-service said with the closure of ECCD, learning has been interrupted for his son. “Centers provide essential learning but as it is closed, my son is deprived of opportunities for growth and development as he is still young,” he said. However, his wife provides essential learning but he added that it would not be the same as in the center. “I think it would be a disadvantage for underprivileged learners as some might have fewer educational opportunities beyond school.”
On the other hand, it is difficult for families where both parents have to work. Tashi Wangdi and his wife both go to office but as centers are closed, they used to leave their three-year old daughter with their neighbor in the beginning. Now, his grandfather has come from Trashigang to look after her. “With offices re-opening, I am faced with immense pressure,” he said adding if the ECCD centers remain shut, it will be difficult for them mainly because younger children require more care.
Namgay Dorji said ECCD centers are a core for children where social activity and child interaction takes place. He said his son complains that he misses out time with friends and he wants to return to the center. “Their mental health can be weakening as there is no interaction with friends that is essential to social development,” he said. However, he said even if the centers open, he will not send his son as there can be risks.
This stress is especially felt by single parents who are unable to afford home-based childcare. Single working parents struggle with home-based learning even more. Karma Zangmo, a tailor said she is facing difficulties with her daughter as she has to work. “Before I used to drop her at the learning center, but now it has become hectic for me,” she said adding as a single parent she has to do everything herself.
UNICEF Bhutan shared their concerns over the closure of ECCD centers saying while it is worrying that children’s learning is affected due to closure of ECCD centers, facilitators are also facing immense disruptions and stress.
Few ECCD centers are preparing to reopen in August but some centers are going to reopen in the coming year.
Tenzin Lhamo from Thimphu