…..𝒓𝒆𝒈𝒂𝒓𝒅𝒍𝒆𝒔𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝒑𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒂𝒍 𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒕𝒖𝒔, 𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚 𝒄𝒉𝒊𝒍𝒅 𝒊𝒔 𝒂 𝒇𝒖𝒕𝒖𝒓𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒄𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒕𝒓𝒚
According to neuroscience research, 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.The foundation of whatever an individual can possibly become in life in terms of health, behaviors, attitude, learning, emotional strength, social competencies and intelligence are formed between birth and five years.
Most of the government agencies have established a separate Early Child Care and Development (ECCD) for the benefit of their employees and their children. However, in absence of this facility, parents who can afford privately operated Early Child Care and Development (ECCD) facility send their children there, while those who cannot afford are sent to public ECCD. There are also parents who cannot effort to send their children in either of these ECCD facilities. Women working in the Department of Roads, Public Development, and other private sectors with low wages feel deprived of this facility to their children.
“Private Early Child Care and Development (ECCD) costs more than Nu 4000, whereas public ECCD is free”, said Ugyen Dema, a mother of two. “Though it is free, public ECCD occasionally collects funds to be used as a welfare fund for the development of ECCD. At the same time parents must purchase all necessary items for their children as required by the ECCD, which I can’t afford”.
According to the Regional Office of the Department of Road (DOR), Thimphu, DOR employs 60 men and 108 women as per the report collected on October, 2022. This number only includes Haa, Paro, and Thimphu. The number will keep changing as most of them are working under contract.
“I have two daughters, one in class two and one who is only four years old,” said a 29-year-old woman working in Public Work Development (PWD). She can afford only one child to send to school even though, her youngest is of age for ECCD and too young to begin school. “Although, public ECCD is free but any work for development of ECCD area and surroundings must be done by the parent of the child and we must pay the fine if we fail to turn up” she added.
She further said “If we miss even a day of work as PWD employees, our daily income will be deducted. That is why I prefer to keep my daughter with me at work instead in the ECCD. I would rather enroll her in school when she’s old enough.”
Purni Lachi Rai, who works as a parking fee collector in Thimphu, said, “I feel like I am one of the Karma Dechen. My basic salary as a parking fee collector is Nu 10000, and I pay Nu 7000 in house rent for a one-bedroom apartment. In addition, I have a four year and two-month old daughter. I have to take my child wherever I go. It’s difficult to balance between working and caring for my child. I earned Nu 20,000 twice only because my sister was looking after my daughter and I could concentrate on my work. If I could do it without stress, being a parking fee collector would be a great job. I believe I can do much better work if there were someone to look after my child.”
“I am worried about her getting into an accident because I have to take her everywhere I go. Further, I once received a warning from Police for bringing my child with me and leaving her by the road. But what can I do? I can’t leave her home alone either”.If there is separate ECCD where we don’t have to pay fee and no contributions and obligation by the ECCD, it would be convenient for mother like me and for my child”, she further added.
Similarly, Sangay Dema (name changed), who works in one of the restaurants in town, said “I have a three-year-old daughter. I cannot afford to enroll her in ECCD, so I bring her with me because there is no one to care for her. I am always so focused on customers that I sometimes forget about her. She frequently goes outside in the street to play with other children “.
She further added “I feel bad about not being able to do what other mothers do, but I also cannot quit my job. It is my primary source of income”.
The private ECCD fee is higher than the salary for low-income women. They can barely earn more than Nu 4000 per month, and the ECCD fee is no less than Nu 4000.
Karma Wangmo, whose child attends private ECCD at Yontenling Startlets, said “I pay a monthly fee of Nu 4000. Along with the fee, we must also purchase a tracksuit which cost about Nu 2500 and have to pay separate Nu. 1500 as registration fee “.
Across the country, there are 495 ECCD centers with 10,026 ECCD children and 947 ECCD Facilitators of which both privately operated and government-supported community ECCD programs.
Ugyen Tshomo, Officiating Director General, National Commission for women and children (NCWC) said “Ministry of Education(MoE) is responsible for establishing ECCDs for children between age 3-5 years. NCWC has established workplace crèches (6 months-3 years) in order to make the workplace more conducive to working women. We have 24 crèches in central agencies and in a few dzongkhags. In collaboration with the MoE and NCWC, the MoE developed crèche modalities in which crèches are established by the MoE and the Ministry of Health (MoH), with NCWC providing support and monitoring”.
According to an official from the education ministry’s ECCD and SEN division, “In Thimphu Thromde, we are trying to create more ECCD facilities as much as possible. For example, there are ECCD in Motithang, mainly for low-income people, and we have recently established model inclusive ECCD in Changangkha which is designed for the children with disabilities and the urban poor. There is one at Centenary Farmer Market (CFM). ECCD in CFM refers not only to farmers but also to people with low income. When we talk about low income, it’s not just about money; when we say low income, we are referring to socioeconomic status. They are fine economically, but many of the parents are uneducated. Without much education, they are doing business to remain independent but during the course, they neglect their children. The consequences of that negligence may contribute to social ills. That is why, taking all of those factors into account, they are giving importance in developing the ECCD”.
“We are also working on one in Babesa, but have not finished it yet because we are waiting for the Facilitators from RCSC”, the official added.