Participation of community members and parents in early childhood care and development (ECCD) programmes is crucial for the sustenance of the centres, according to education officials.

Thimphu dzongkhag’s chief education officer, Tashi Namgyal, during the ECCD week, said that in Lingzhi, parents were willing to contribute to ECCD for their children. “We would now be opening three centres in Lingzhi. Community’s contribution is the only best possible solution that we have at present.”

ECCD and special education needs’ chief programme officer, Sherab Phuntshok, said that ECCD is crosscutting in nature, which requires the participation of every individual and stakeholder.

He said that civil society organisations and private enterprises were collaborating to promote ECCD programmes.

Trashiyangtse dzongkhag education officer, Kinzang Dendup, said that ECCD is not a priority for local leaders in gewogs and chiwogs. “People in villages and local leaders have other priorities such as irrigation, roads and meeting halls.”

He said that the ownership of ECCD centres should be given to the communities so that communities could prioritise ECCD programmes and become responsible, while development partners could provide technical support.

Sherab Phuntshok said that DEOs have been trained in ECCD programmes and they should represent the education ministry. “DEOs should convince local leaders to prioritise ECCD.”

He said that people in communities are also not aware of the benefits and needs of ECCD and that the government needs to support ECCD centres in the communities. “There are focal persons, centre management committee, education monitoring information system and quality monitoring tool for ECCD centres to tackle sustainability issues.”

A participant said that parents should be included in the programmes of the ECCD centres.

She said that if parents were not included, it would be difficult for ECCD centres to sustain, as parents are the ones who cater to the needs of a child ultimately. “ECCD is important and has been proven beneficial and if we invest in it, these children will grow up to be successful adults.”

The government and the development partners such as United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Save the Children have been supporting the ECCD centres.

By 2024, the education ministry aims to achieve an ECCD centre in every chiwog. There are 307 ECCD centres in the country today.

Rinchen Zangmo