41 preschools reopened safely in Tavush Region with support from the European Union and UNICEF
Hygiene kits provided by a joint EU and UNICEF project ensured proper protection from the coronavirus for 1,980 young children in Tavush.
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Every day, Andre, 4, from Sarigyugh tries to persuade his mother to take him to the kindergarten, and even promises to take the mid-day nap there without resistance, just so he can go and play with his friends - Baka, Suro and Angelika.
Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, kindergartens had to close several times in Armenia, leaving children without their favorite toys, without morning walks, singing or dancing with their friends. Andre and many children like him have even started to miss the usually unpopular "naptime".
During the last months of 2020, the Future Today projects assembled and transported 75 boxes of hygiene kits, which were handed over to 30 kindergartens and 11 preschools in the Tavush region, including the Sarigyugh kindergarten. The Future Today project is financed by the European Union and implemented by UNICEF in collaboration with UNDP, UNFPA and a number of local Armenian organisations. The boxes allowed the kindergartens to reopen and provide a Covid-safe environment for the children and staff to resume their daily activities.
The 75 boxes contained 1,847 pieces of liquid soap, 747 alcohol gels, 59 boxes of rubber gloves, 69 household gloves, 84 N95 masks, 2,000 medical masks, 49 non-contact thermometers and 90 5-liters of alcohol spray.
"The continued provision of hygiene materials to kindergartens is very important. In collaboration with the municipality, the Regional Administration had previously provided these materials, however local financial resources are insufficient to guarantee a regular supply of these items,” said Mrs. Hasmik Khachatryan, Chief Specialist of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports of Tavush Regional Administration.
The first batch of kits was delivered to a kindergarten in Ijevan. When the preschools first reopened, all prevention rules were strictly adhered to shared Siramarg Sakanyan, director of the kindergarten. “We have 150 children that attend the kindergarten. When we reopened, we worked with smaller groups of children, 10-12, throughout the day. We followed the regulations set by the ministry: measured each child’s temperature before entrance, rearranged the tables to keep a safe distance, restricted parents' access, removed all soft toys and frequently disinfected all surfaces. The hardest task was to teach the younger children of 3-4 years old to maintain physical distance.”
We also went to visit Andre's kindergarten in Sarigyugh, 22 km away from Ijevan, to deliver hygiene kits. Andre attend the kindergarten together with 37 other children. Gayane Gevorgyan, the director, considers the reopening of kindergartens very important: “All our parents call me one by one and ask when we will reopen. They say that the children are constantly in front of the screen at home. They are concerned that children are missing out on important opportunities for their development.”
Mrs. Khachatryan of the Tavush Regional Administration also places a lot of importance on the reopening of early learning services. “We must learn how to live safely with the infection. We must learn to comply with the recommended precautionary measures so that our children do not miss out on the care and the education they receive in the kindergartens. After all, it is by attending the kindergarten that children learn to communicate, develop social skills, play team games, become independent, develop creative thinking and prepare for school. We are all responsible and obliged to contribute to their future. And right now, we do that through wearing a mask, through keeping physical distance and regularly disinfecting or hands and surfaces for everyone’s safety," she concluded.
It’s our collective responsibility to make sure that Andre, his friends and other children across Armenia return to kindergarten and that their elder brothers and sisters can attend school. They are longing to learn safely together and are even ready to do what they don’t normally enjoy, such as taking the mid-day nap. Each one of us can go to the limits to do what we do not fancy, like them, not just for our own safety, but also for every child and their future.
In the autumn months 2020, the Future Today project, which is implemented by UNICEF, UNDP and UNFPA in collaboration with local partners and financed by the European Union. In Tavush region, the local partners “Full Life” and “Step by Step” organisations provided hygiene items, disinfectants and posters about COVID-19 to more than 355 kindergartens and preschools in five regions of Armenia: Gegharkunik, Syunik, Lori, Shirak, and Tavush. With these materials over 8,206 families were able to send their children safely to kindergarten. The supplies were provided in 661 boxes distributed to 124 communities. The boxes contained 14,916 pieces of liquid soap, 6,882 pieces of alcohol gel, 500 packs of rubber gloves (100 pieces each), 559 masks, 15,610 medical masks, 592 household gloves and 323 non-contact thermometers, as well as 678 pieces of 5-liter alcohol spray for disinfection of surfaces and 4,500 posters about precautionary measures and hand hygiene.
“It is well known that access to education is more difficult to children growing up in the regions of Armenia – and a much smaller number of children attend kindergarten. When the children turn up for their first day at school, there will be a huge difference between the children that have attended early childhood care and education and whose who did not have this opportunity. With the Future Today project, we are investing in a more equal Armenia and are trying to make a contribution to ensure that all children in Armenia receive the support and care they need to develop their full potentials. However; I would like to emphasize that access to these services are also very important for the parents and particularly the mothers who carry such a heavy load in many countries – including here. Armenian women deserves the opportunities to continue to educate themselves, to work, to earn their own money and to develop their talents and skills too”. I am very happy that we have been able to support the earlier opening of many kindergartens and to create a safe environment for children, staff and parents. In Europe, in Armenia and across the world children and youth have suffered a lot during the pandemic – but so have the mothers and the women. We now need to rebuild what has been lost and I believe that an important priority for the early recovery is to support women in getting back on their feet”, shared Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Armenia.
This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Future Today project and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.