Community ECCD centers decide not to open still

In line with the directives received from the office of the Prime Minister on the re-opening of private ECCD centers, the Ministry of Education announced that all private ECCD centers can re-open from July 15. It was also notified that the re-opening of the centers will depend entirely on the agreement between the proprietor and the parents.

However, public ECCD centers are still not open. There are about 433 community ECCD centers in the country, which is a huge number and if they remain unopened can pose problems to the society.

The education secretary, Karma Tshering said though centers have remained closed for a long time, ECCD facilitators are supporting parents to engage with children through home visits, parenting, education interventions, and online support. He said that the reopening of private ECCD centers has been prioritized because there are only about 51 private ECCD centers in the whole country and they are directly managed by proprietors and center managers. “Children enrolled in private ECCD centers could be dropped off and picked up directly by parents,” he said.

Private ECCD centers are located in urban centers where parents go to the office from 9 am to 5 pm. The reopening has helped to ease pressure and stress on them and it has enabled them to work effectively in the office.

Education Secretary said there is an economic dimension to private ECCD centers. When private ECCD centers remain closed for a longer period, proprietors are losing business and facilitators are deprived of their livelihood, when centers are not in a position to pay them salaries.

“Opening in a phased manner is much easier to manage initially and with the experience gained, it would give us the confidence to manage all the ECCD centers better,” he said adding there was no complaint from community centers to reopen but certainly from the private ECCD centers.

If the centers open, the ministry has issued comprehensive guidelines for the safety and well being of children. All the precautionary safety measures that centers need to practice are spelled out in the guidelines. He said ECCD centers desiring to reopen are assessed using a safety checklist and certified only if they meet the safety requirements.

Till now, 16 private ECCD centers have reopened, eight are reopening in August and the rest, 16 are not reopening this year and 11 centers are still undecided on whether to reopen and consult parents if they should reopen.

The issue of the fee is negotiated between the parents and the ECCD centers. “We have learned that many ECCD centers that are not reopening have either returned the fees or kept as fees when centers gets reopen and children come back,” said the education secretary adding with the experience gained in successfully managing the private ECCD centers, there is high probability of opening community centers.

Tenzin Lhamo from Thimphu