COVID-19 has affected the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centers along with other educational institutes kept closed for more than 4 months. However, with the PM leaving it to the ECCDs and parents to reopen around half the private ECCDs have decided to reopen.
The Prime Minister has said that those private ECCDs who are reopening have to follow the COVID-19 protocols strictly.
An official from MoE said the children who are kept at home all day might feel stressed and anxious with not much to do indoors. Children in such circumstances are also more vulnerable to abuse.
The official MoE is engaged in thinking about strategies and measures for safe reopening. The ministry has developed the guidelines and protocols, such as a COVID response intervention that seeks to engage parents to provide support to young children at home. It is being initiated through the DEOs and ECCD facilitators. According to the surveys, the interventions have been implemented efficiently and have proved to be effective, said the official.
The early years from conception to age 5 is important as the foundational period of human beings, where all the experiences and learning that a child goes through contribute to the development of a human being, particularly in terms of his/her health, learning and behaviour. The quality of an individual’s early childhood experiences determines the quality of the person he/she becomes, the official said.
Generally, early ECCD programs are designed to help improve the quality of experiences that children have, by helping to improve parenting and care of the parents through parenting education, and by providing opportunities for children to socialize and learn in-group settings. These are provided through health and nutrition services in the first 1000 days through health interventions, crèches and childcare centers, preschool programs and parenting education programs.
Apart from the programs provided by other agencies, there are 495 ECCD centers for 9,422 children aged 25-60 months, led by MoE, which constitute about 26 percent of children in the age group. The national goal is to provide access to ECCD centers for 50 percent of children aged 25-60 months by 2023 and universal coverage by 2030.
ECCD learning framework is based on early learning and development standard, which is based on children’s developmental milestones, validated by age and content for our own context, the official said.
This also forms the basis for curriculum for children in ECCD centers, where children’s developmental progress is observed and recorded on a continuous basis. Accordingly, monitoring tools and systems are put in place to ensure the effective implementation of the curriculum. Also the parenting education modules also exist to educate help parents improve parenting practices.
Even though everything is in place to ensure effective child development through ECCD centers, there is generally a lack of awareness of the importance of ECCD, which is why many parents do not understand the essence of ECCD programs. On the other hand, sometimes gaps emerge in implementation, no matter how perfect systems and plans are, said the official.