Centres grapple with shortage of facilitators

Yangyel Lhaden

As 132 out of 420 government ECCD centres remain closed due to shortage of facilitators, the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) has submitted a proposal to the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) to approve the recruitment of Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) facilitators as per the ministry’s requirement.

The 132 vacant ECCD centres are in need of 156 facilitators. The ministry has requested redeployment of 30 ECCD facilitators to the vacant centres from ECCD centres which are likely to convert to mobile ECCD centres.

The Minister for MoESD, Jai Bir Rai, said, “We also requested the RCSC to look into non-formal education (NFE) instructors who are willing to teach to ECCD children because NFE is likely to close in the future. The ministry requested for 40 NFE instructors to work as ECCD facilitators.”

The ministry also requested for 25 NFE instructors who meet the eligibility criteria to be redeployed as ECCD facilitators with phasing out of NFE centres, while proposing for 58 new recruitments to RCSC.

“The ministry has allowed Thimphu Thromde and Sarpang dzongkhag to temporarily recruit ECCD facilitators although their requirement of facilitators is included in the proposal,” Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai said.

As the issue remains unresolved at the national level for years, the parents are feeling the brunt of the government’s indecision. They are hoping that the centres reopen soon.

Some of the ECCD centres have been closed for more than three years since its establishment.

A parent from Lharing gewog in Sarpang said that access to childcare would make life easier for working parents. “I hope the centre opens soon.”

Lharing ECCD in Gakiling Gewog is closed due to the lack of a facilitator.

Parents of children in Thimphu Thromde’s ECCD centre in Tshalumaphey are worried about centre’s closure as the ECCD facilitators who are temporarily teaching at the centre would leave. Facilitators from the Centenary Farmers Market (CFM) ECCD centre are teaching at the centre when the CFM is closed.

An ECCD facilitator in Thimphu said that ECCD played a crucial role in child development when the traditional child-play activities are declining due to urbanisation and digitalisation. “ECCD centres serve as a place where children can gather, interact with each other, and learn from their surroundings.”

“These days child development growth is delayed due to prolonged exposure to screen,” She added.

A corporate employee in Thimphu said that the government should prioritise ECCD centres and ensure its availability nationwide if they aim to encourage higher child birth.

“I am hesitant about having a second child.” She opined, adding that one of the factors discouraging couples from having more children are due to scarcity of government ECCDs and expensive private ECCDs.

There are 9,987 children in ECCDs—private and government— across the country.

The government’s target is to increase the ECCD enrollment rate to 50 percent by 2024 and 100 percent by 2030. “The government aspires to achieve 100 percent enrollment by the end of the 13th five-year plan,” Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai said.

An official with RCSC said that with falling birthrates, there have been a concern on enrollment of ECCD facilitators and continuation of ECCD centres. “In order, to make the best use of human resources in the nation, RCSC has requested the ministry to rationalise the ECCD centres.”

“ With the current number of ECCDs proposed, approximately 700 ECCD facilitators have to be recruited which has serious implications in terms of cost,” the RCSC official added.

Meanwhile, the MoESD’s proposal is being reviewed by the Cabinet Secretariat.