ECCD facilitators rise to the occasion of COVID-19

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It is 8am and drizzling outside. Leki Chezom, 27, from Zhemgang is ready with gumboots, umbrella and some text books in her bag. She need not have to worry about food and lodge because villagers serve her as she visits their children at home.

She has been working as an Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) facilitator in Tsendagang, Dagana for five years where she supports the learning of 13 children. It’s a mentally and physically draining job for her sometimes because she has to climb almost 5km uphill in the rain from Dagana town.

“Since we all know that the centers are closed due to COVID-19, I spend most of my days at the center taking part in creative activities preparing for the reopening,” she said, adding that sometimes she visits her little friends (the ECCD children) at their homes to support and monitor their learning progress.

Despite the challenges, she makes sure that she is constantly in touch with the children through their parents through social media. “The COVID-19 pandemic has affected lives around the globe and impacted the success of children and families,” she said.

Like Leki Chezom, during the pandemic, there are around 500 ECCD facilitators across the country moving around 495 ECCD centers and putting in efforts to teach 9,400 children between three to five years old. The ECCD facilitators had visited the homes of children with feasible conditions and monitored the progress of children with hands on support.

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has forced ECCD centers to close down, the ECCD facilitators have risen to the challenge and supported children through remote learning platforms.

One ECCD facilitator, Pema Dema, 24, is working as an ECCD facilitator for Tashigatshel ECCD center in Chhukha dzongkhag. “We, the facilitators and teachers, are still paid our salary for which we would like to thank His Majesty the King and our government,” she said.

She added that she can serve the country in better ways instead of just staying at home. She even applied for the 39th Batch of Desuung Training and after undergoing training she went back to Tashigatshel. Beside the Desuung duty, she tried to keep the ECCD children engaged through online platforms.

Another ECCD facilitator, Damcho Wangmo, 27, from Gasa who has been working for five years uses WeChat to narrate stories, and she visits home and interacts directly with the children. “This pandemic has taught us to be prepared and rise to new challenges,” she said.

Similarly, Kinzang Dema, 25, from Lungo ECCD center takes extra steps to ensure learning in the community. “I walk miles crossing the rivers and valleys, climbing mountains through rain and sun to connect with my children and their parents,” she said, adding she shows education video clips, rhymes and teaches simple activities like coloring.

“I will continue to try my best by calling parents individually and guiding them to support their children’s needs,” she added.

Karma Choden from Haa visits the home of the children even though she has to walk through leech infested forests and she tries her best to stay engaged with the children about three times a week. For her children’s progress, she shares art activities, rhymes, stories, shapes, flowers and picture-based activities. “I try to share a variety of activities to keep children engaged,” she said.

Sonam Tashi from Thimphu

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