ECCDs in the country unable to decide whether to reopen or not

Following Lyonchhen’s announcement that it is up to the parents and Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centers to decide on whether to open or not, most ECCDs in the country are yet to decide on whether to reopen or not.

However, there are some ECCDs that will not reopen, given the fact that the children going to ECCDs are all below five years of age. They reasoned that it would be very difficult to manage the small children and direct them to follow the health protocols.

Proprietor of Happy Feet Childcare ECCD, Sonam Lhamo, said the government has announced that ECCDs can open if the parents and proprietors agree to reopen. She said many parents are facing problems with no one to look after their kids, and in addition, the normal timing for civil servants and corporations have resumed. A few of the parents have requested her to reopen the ECCD, but she is not sure whether to reopen or not although the government has made the announcement.

She said she has not decided yet as whether to reopen ECCD this year or next year because of the increasing number of the COVID-19 cases in the country. “We have to deal with kids below five years and I feel it will be very difficult for those little kids to follow health protocols,” she said.

She said that even her daughter who is studying in 10th grade complains everyday that wearing a facemask is uncomfortable. So it will be very difficult for the little kids to wear facemasks and manage them as well.

Some of the proprietors are more worried about health matters than financial woes as ECCDs are financially affected by the pandemic.

“I am still thinking because it is the matter of young lives,” Sonam Lhamo said.

Similarly Kindercare Preschool ECCD and others shared that managing kids below five years and to ask them to follow all the health protocols would be difficult.

Some of the proprietors of ECCDs have together decided not to reopen their ECCDs because no one knows how the situation would turn out, and also not many children would come back since the year is almost ending, said one of the ECCD proprietor.

She said no parent has approached her, and if there are more parents coming and asking them to reopen, maybe then they would have given it a thought, but right now that is not the scenario. Along with two of her friends who run ECCDs, they have already discussed on not reopening their ECCDs because they are apprehensive about dealing with the health and safety of very small children.

She said she plans on refunding some of the fees back to the parents. “The Health Minister said that community transmission is inevitable, and if there is community transmission then they have to protect the kids. If it is just imported cases then it would have been easy to protect kids, but if there is community transmission then it is going to be difficult,” she added.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said if individuals come forward to reopen their ECCDs, then the health ministry will only provide certain guidelines where it has risk assessment tools. The ministry assess the risks and then suggest modification. Similarly, for ECCD, the ministry would come up with the recommendation. So if the private ECCDs are to be open then the ministry would specifically do the risk modification.

She said the health ministry cannot say whether the private ECCDs can be opened or not, but it depends on how much of a risk modification they can do. If there are circumstances where risk modification cannot be done, then the ministry shall not recommend the reopening, be it ECCDs, karaoke or any other centers.

She said it is the government who decides on what to open and what not, and health ministry only makes recommendation after doing the risk assessment.

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