Education officials said parents lack awareness on the need to invest early in their children’s development 

Education: Although Trashigang has 13 community-based Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centers spread across the dzongkhag, there were no workplace- based ECCDs until a few days ago.

Unlike in community-based ECCDs, parents need to pay a nominal fee for the workplace ones. The first and the only private ECCD in Trashigang town confronted with poor support from parents and eventually had to shut down.

Recently, the district education office started a workplace-based ECCD on a trial basis at the new multi-sports hall. Focal person of ECCD, the assistant dzongkhag education officer (ADEO), Ugyen Thinley said parents in the town don’t invest in their children from an early age.

“In the process, hundreds of children are being deprived of a vital part of their wholesome development,” he said. “It has been scientifically and psychologically proven that children need proper care from parents until they turn eight.”

This has been further confirmed through the performance gap that exists between children who receive early interventions and those who don’t. However, many parents are not aware of this and prefer not to enroll their children in ECCD centers in Trashigang.

“Parents must understand that their children are preparing for formal education and would develop confidence, language and communication skills among others as they grow up,” the ADEO said. “It is also expected to contribute toward mitigating school dropout rates.”

Further, it could bring down the rate of academic failure in schools and help in containing social issues related to youth such as drug abuse and teenage pregnancy.

The workplace-based ECCD facility would take in children between three to five years and keep a facilitator for every 15 children. Given the unavailability of a separate budget of ECCDs, the district office is making use of the existing structure.

“Other than reducing the performance gap, another objective is to encourage the establishment of competitive private ECCDs. In future, we are hoping for a massive change in the attitude of parents,” the ADEO added.

During the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the office has plans to open another two workplace-based ECCD centers at Kanglung and Rangjung.  Three community-based ECCDs at Gazarey, Gongthong and Tsangpo are also in the pipeline.

In the case of community-based ECCD centers, a major challenge could be attributed to the fact that most villages are scattered and many are unable to take advantage of the facilities. All of the 13 existing centers are located in clustered villages.

However, change in the mindset of parents is slowly becoming evident. The first workplace-based ECCD has already enrolled about 100 children.

A parent from Rangjung, Yangku, 32, who has a three-year-old daughter, is all set to enroll her once a center is established at Rangjung Autonomous HSS.

“We have been hearing about the center coming up for quite some time and most parents were skeptical if the idea would materialise,” he said. “A lot of parents here are waiting for the center.”

According to a manual released by the education ministry, the demand for ECCD is growing as family and social structures evolve with development and changing times.

“The traditional practice of care provided by family members is becoming increasingly difficult as mothers go to work, both in rural and urban areas, and the joint family system becomes increasingly difficult to practice,” the manual states.

Thus, it states, that all children do not receive the care and stimulation that is critical in the early childhood period.

After recognising the prevailing reality and the urgent need for ECCD services, the education ministry undertook the piloting of community-based ECCD centers in 2008 and initiated an expansion of the model since 2009.

Tshering Wangdi,  Trashigang