The European Union and UNICEF supported 30 Preschools in Syunik Region to resume operations
With EU funding, UNICEF has provided hygiene kits to ensure that 2,079 young children in Syunik can attend kindergarten in a coronavirus safe and protected environment.
In the autumn 2020, staff working on the EU-funded Future Today project visited the southern part of Armenia – Sisian, Kajaran, Goris, Tatev and Meghri, to hand over 70 boxes of hygiene kits to the local partner Full Life NGO which was tsked to distribute these materials to 23 kindergartens and 7 preschools. “Early childhood care and learning services are very important for children and young families. This is why it has been important for us to support these institutions to reopen safely while the pandemic was still raging but on a lesser scale than during its peaks, so that the children do not miss out on early development and are ready for school when the time comes,” says UNICEF Armenia Education specialist Alvard Poghosyan.
During a visit we met Susana, 5, and Yana, 4, in Goris kindergarten #4, who were helping the nurse at the kindergarten to unpack materials received through the Future Today project. They explained in great detail how to follow the instructions on hand washing, proper wearing of masks and main precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 illustrated on the child-friendly posters distributed by the UNICEF-led project.
“While inclusive early childhood care and education is extremely important for the children, I would not underestimate the value of access to such services for the families and the communities. I think we can safely say that mothers, who are the main caregivers in Armenia, benefit very much from being able to send their children to trusted day care centres. Many studies show that lack of access to such services is an important impediment to women’s active participation and voice in society, ability to follow additional studies and training as well as joining initiatives that could empower them economically,” shares Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin. “Armenian women already carry a heavy load and there has been a significant problem of accessing early childhood care and education services for those families living in the regions. The EU has been determined to support the removal of these barriers and encouraging women playing a more active and visible role in developing Armenia – and we will continue these efforts”.
“When I grow up, I want to become a doctor so that I can work alongside my grandma. But on Sundays, I will be singing! When at home, Yana and I repeat all day that we want to return to kindergarten."
When the kindergartens and preschools first re-opened in Armenia in mid-September, it was impossible for all children to attend as the groups were too big and this did not conform to the main rules.
“We have 120 students and we had to split them into smaller groups, as there was not enough space to accommodate them all at once and maintain social distancing. The community decided to support working parents and or those with poor childcare support at home, so only 65 children are able to attend at the moment,” said Varduhi Elyazyan, Director of the kindergarten. “In order not to leave the other children out of the learning process, our educators send greetings to them several times a week through social media and mobile platforms. We make sure to assign certain tasks through the week, including storytelling and keep in touch with the children digitally as well to ensure their learning.”
“The coronavirus made us pay attention to details we had not thought of before, such as water taps that can be opened with your elbow, or placing beds with more distance between them. I also want to emphasise the importance of continuous training opportunities for the kindergarten educators. The last one we had was with UNICEF about seven years ago, so much has changed now," noted Armine Hovakimyan, Head of Education, Culture and Sports department at Goris municipality. “Before the kindergartens re-opened in Syunik, we provided them with some hygiene materials but it’s important that stocks are regularly replenished so that all centers have what they need to keep following the main rules.”
Later that day we also met Karine Minasyan, Director of kindergarten #5 in Goris. Despite the location in an old building, the premises were extremely clean and made ready to welcome children.
“We measure every child’s temperature upon entrance and disinfect their hands. Due to the pandemic, we had to restrict parents’ access to the building. It’s important to keep these centres open so that children have a safe place to come and learn with other kids and learn through age-appropriate activities. By opening our doors we ensure that they keep learning and keep up their positive development.”
“I missed Mrs. Armine playing the piano the most so that we can sing and dance to it,” said Natalie, 3, at the kindergarten #5. When I asked her what the coronavirus was, she said, “The coronavirus is an evil thing, it is no good. It must go away!” So I asked her what we should do for the coronavirus to go away. “We must put on a mask and wash our hands,” said Natalie.
We cannot agree more with her!
In the autumn 2020, UNICEF with financial support from the European Union and in partnership with “Full Life” and “Step by Step” organizations, 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 18,206 children were able to safely attend kindergarten after they reopen. In total, 661 boxes with hygiene items were supplied to 124 communities. The supplies included 14,916 pieces of liquid soap, 6,882 pieces of alcohol gel, 500 packs of rubber gloves (100 pieces), 559 pieces of 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.
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.