Rajesh Rai | Samtse

It is a bright sunny morning at Ngawang Dramtoe in Samtse.

Children enter the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centre one by one. Unlike ECCDs in urban centres, there is a pin drop of silence. These are the lhop (Doya) children.

A young boy has brought a fresh cucumber for the facilitator.

Two years since the ECCD opened in the village of Ngawang Dramtoe in Samtse’s Tading Gewog, parents are happy that the centre is bringing positive pre-school habits among their children.

A mother, Zochu Om, 25, said her five-year-old son has shown tremendous change since he was enrolled in the centre.

“Now, he also knows alphabets,” she said, adding that the centre has benefited the community immensely.

“This year is his last at the centre. He used to stay home with me before. It would have been great had such a centre opened many years ago.”

Prior to the opening of the ECCD, Lhop children spent their time at home before they were enrolled for Pre-Primary education. Today, there are 19 children at the centre.

A total of 25 children have already graduated from the centre in the last two years.

Tshering Lhamo, a 23-year-old mother and a Class VII dropout, said she dropped out of school because of financial burden at home.

“I am not going to let this happen to my son. And this ECCD is the start of everything for him,” she said.

Tshering Lhamo boasts that his son now knows the alphabets and numbers. He can also sing Dzongkha songs.

The ECCD facilitator, Rinchen Yangzom, said there are big changes in the children.

“They know how to show gratitude by thanking,” she said. “Even their parents didn’t know much about such matters. In a way, parents are also learning from children.”

Explaining that ECCD centres don’t focus much on academics, Rinchen Yangzom said the main lessons are cleanliness and discipline. There are activities based on five domains. Children learn and explore through play.

Children are confident, the facilitator said. They can speak and understand letters.

Rinchen Yangzom said that people from the same chiwog did not interact and socialise among themselves before. “Now they know each other because of their children. The centre has also promoted social bonding.”

Before joining the centre, Rinchen Yangzom was a facilitator in a private ECCD in an urban centre. She said there is a vast difference between Lhop children and those in the urban centres.

“Lhop children are very calm. They are never raucous,” she said. “They don’t have mobiles but they connect.”

The centre is in need of a television. It has a sound system and the facilitator uses her phone to show videos to teach the children.