Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

The two-roomed Thrimsung Phendey Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centre in Damphu has blocks and building toys, puzzles and problem-solving toys, pretend play items, and creative playthings, among other appealing items. But it has remained shut for the past five months.

Children have registered with the centre but without a facilitator, like many of the centres in the Tsirang dzongkhag, it is not operating as intended. This has resulted in damage to properties due to disuse. Meanwhile, working parents are increasingly struggling to juggle tending to their children and work.

Sun Bahdhur, the father of a three-year-old child, said that he was hoping that the ECCD centre in his gewog would open soon. “I’ve heard that the child’s formative years are crucial for child development. I want the best for my son.”

Bolu Gurung has also registered his four-year-old son with the ECCD in Padtshaling. He said that the ECCD facilities should open as soon as possible, since many children are home without proper attention and required care.

According to Patshaling gup Chabi Kumar Rai the ECCD centre within the primary school compound was completed seven months ago. He said that required learning tools are in place, but without a facilitator, it has remained closed.

“We have informed the dzongkhag administration, but we are told that there are insufficient resources and funding for it within the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC).”

The facilitator approval letter was submitted by the dzongkhag administration to RCSC for final approval but it is still pending, an official said.

In many of these centres without facilitators, at least 15 children were registered with the ECCDs. More than 25 children were registered in Patshaling, 15 in Nyizergang EECD centre in Kilkhorthang gewog, and 29 in Phuentenchu gewog.

The dzongkhag administration and the National Commission for Women and Children contributed play materials and other facilities. The structures were built with external fund support from Global partnership for Education.

A source said that if these structures don’t see proper use, it will be difficult to obtain fund support in the future.

There are four such centres without facilitators in the dzongkhag.

While the Ministry of Education aims to achieve ECCD enrolment rate of 50 percent by 2024 and 100 percent by 2030, records show the current rate is only about 24 percent.

There are 495 ECCD centres across the country, including community centres, private and operated by non-government organisations, with 8,026 students. About 947 facilitators manage them.

According to experts, ECCD centres are important, since the time from birth until a child is five years old is the most critical and sensitive period, given that 85 percent to 95 percent of human development takes place at this age.

Edited by Tshering Palden