25 facilitators from Trashigang dzongkhag participated in the training

… MoE and UNICEF to try the programme in three districts

Neten Dorji | Trashigang

Bhutan became the first country in Asia to pilot the Caring for the Caregiver (CFC) Programme, which began in Trashigang on April 17.

Ministry of Education (MoE) and UNICEF Bhutan are piloting the caring for caregivers training to equip Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) facilitators with the skills on caregiver support focusing on health and emotional support.

A joint press release from MoE and UNICEF states that caregivers have a large impact on children’s survival and development and their well-being is critical in achieving optimal child development. “However, there is today little emphasis on caregiver health and emotional well being, especially in resource-constrained communities with limited access to such forms of essential support,” the release states. 

The training package, developed by UNICEF with support from the LEGO Foundation, focuses on a strengths-based counselling approach to build caregiver confidence, support stress management, self-care, conflict resolution skills, family engagement, and social support.

UNICEF Bhutan Representative Dr Will Parks said that the CFC package is a caregiver and family-centred training that focuses on encouraging families to support and protect children.

“The pilot of the CFC package in Bhutan is a testament of the strong partnership between the Ministry of Education and UNICEF in our united effort to improve the health, development, and well-being of children in their earliest years,” Dr Will Parks said.

Education Secretary, Karma Tshering said that the CFC package is a much-awaited programme and an integral part of the ECCD programme. “Responsive caregiving and early stimulation will go a long way in benefiting our children with long-lasting relationships with parents, which are critical to children’s healthy and positive development with best learning outcomes.”

Programme Analyst, Karma Galey said, the CFC training for ECCD facilitators is to build the capacity of ECCD facilitators to understand the concept of CFC clearly and acquire knowledge and skills to administer the intervention, aligned with existing parenting education sessions and home visiting schedules.

“Most of the caregivers are trying to do the best they can for their children, but caregiving and raising children is exhausting and stressful. For this reason, a whole family approach to raise children is critical.”

He said when families’ work together, they can play an important role in promoting development by providing children with opportunities to play and learn effectively, build relationship skills and explore their environments safely.

A participant, Chimi Wangmo said, “If we support caregivers to better understand and manage their problem, it can improve their abilities to support their children.”

She said the CFC would change both behaviour and emotion of caregivers.

“If we could impart CFC programmes to caregivers adequately then by the time their children are admitted at the ECCD, they would be ready to understand anything,” said another participant, Jigme Choden.

The pilot phase which began from Trashigang, the MoE and UNICEF is going to train 75 ECCD facilitators and dzongkhag education officers from across three districts, Trashigang, Punakha and Tsirang.

“During the pilot phase, a research-based monitoring and evaluation approach will be applied to CFC implementation thereby ensuring that the packages are relevant and serve the needs of caregivers to strengthen parenting. Based on the findings, the resources will be further improved before the programme is rolled out nationwide,” the prerelease states.  

Karma Gayley said the programme is presently being piloted in three dzongkhags Trashigang, Tsirang and Punakha. “If found effective and meaningful, it will be rolled out in all the other ECCD centres and integrated into the existing parenting education modules.”

The CFC materials were adapted specifically to Bhutan’s context to build on the existing National Parenting Education Manual developed by the MoE and UNICEF.

Meanwhile, 25 ECCD facilitators and an education officer from Trashigang completed the three-day training yesterday.