…provided Covid-19 safety guidelines are strictly followed  

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centres could reopen if parents and owners come to a consensus, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering confirmed.

After Royal Civil Service Commission discontinued work from home, many civil servants are now struggling to meet demands of office work and tending to their children.

While there is no directive issued, the government has decided to leave it to the discretion of the proprietors whether to reopen the centres. If the centres reopen it is up to the parents if they want to send their children.

However, Lyonchhen said if they reopen then centres must follow the Covid-19 safety guidelines strictly and put in all the safety measures.

“There is a business element and we don’t mind if the parents and proprietors agree to reopen,” Lyonchhen said.

“But the public ECCDs across the country will remain closed.”

Lyonchhen told Kuensel that since the public ECCD centres have higher student ratios management would be difficult.

“This is why the facilitators are asked to visit students at home and keep them engaged meaningfully.”

Lyonchhen said that if the private ECCD proved to run efficiently and the plan goes well then the government could also reopen public ECCD in the next phase.

“If the management is difficult and there are complains on the reopening or not practising safety protocols, we will ask the ECCDs to close. But if there is a local transmission then the situation is different.”

The education minister Jai Bir Rai told Kuensel that the ministry would be sending a notification to private ECCDs and leave the decision to discretion of parents and owners.

The minister said the centres should also maintain the student ratio, inform the ministry and share the details on how to reopen. Lyonpo added the ministry will then share the guidelines and other protocols.

“We’ll also ensure there is regular monitoring and inspect the ECCDs as far as possible,” Lyonpo said. “For public ECCDs, we’ve asked facilitators to visit students at home at least thrice in a week and assign tasks to keep students engaged.”

Some of the private ECCD centre owners said that if given a chance and if parents are willing to send their children, they will adopt a shift system and not have regular classes.

Meanwhile, the government will keep the classes Pre-Primary to Classes VI closed for the rest of the academic session. For the rest of the classes, the decision will depend on the result of phase I.

In phase I the government reopened Classes X and XII, while for Classes VII, VIII, IX and XI will be announced in Phase II.

Lyonchhen said that the government would assess the scenario and situation of phase I, public mood, students’ behaviours, attitude and how smooth the reopening of schools will be.

“If we decide to reopen them, we might first start with classes IX and XI and then the rest,” Lyonchhen said.

Lyonchhen said it is an extraordinary time and a difficult situation.

“Life is important than the livelihood right now so, there is no Phase II for classes PP-VI. It’s being done to avoid having any local transmission”

However, Lyonchhen added if the Covid-19 situation remains same until 2021 then the government will have to come up with other measures, as schools cannot remain close more than a year.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that she was still not confident to let schools arrange and conduct classes in small groups or call the students to schools.

“I would rather advise schools to wait until government announce Phase II.”