Returning to kindergarten, even during the days of the pandemic
Today, on September 16, Jiliza Alternative Preschool reopened; and Alvard, Narek, Elina, Mher and Anahit were able to come to kindergarten once again.
Jiliza is almost five hours away from Yerevan by car. A long way, endless fields, rocky steep climbs, going up the bends and down the bends, up again, down again, and we finally reached Jiliza. A village with barely 100 inhabitants. A village that is more than 100 years old, but did not have a kindergarten until now.
We got out of the car and entered the school building, where, in one of the rooms, UNICEF had established an alternative preschool in February. We opened the door of the preschool and saw Alvard, Khachik, Narek, Elina, Mher and Anahit sitting around the table painting.
We started talking with the children and Khachik, who was the eldest of the children, and the bravest. He started to introduce the children and share about the kindergarten. He said that he also participated in the construction of the kindergarten ․ "I painted this wall together with my father, we came and helped, it is beautiful, isn't it?"
Khachik attends kindergarten with his younger sister Alvard, who is two years younger. When their mother, Meline, came to accompany the children home, she told us that thanks to the kindergarten the children during this short period had learned independence. In general, Meline, a mother of four, prioritizes the importance of having a preschool in their community. She says with regret that her elder children, ten-year-old Hasmik and eight-year-old Aram, did not attend kindergarten, going directly to the school desk.
She says that everyone helped with the construction: “One with the brains, one with strength, one by encouraging, and one by painting. Everybody did what they could, and participated in the construction of the kindergarten. We even have a grandfather who has no grandchildren or children here, nevertheless, he came and helped every day. They did it for our village, for our children. “Indeed, the people’s word is true:" If a village stands, the log will break. "
To take the child to kindergarten, to visit a pediatrician or just to do grocery shopping, a resident of this village on the Armenian-Georgian border has to travel to the town Alaverdi, which is at least a one hour drive from the village. "Children often refuse to go to Alaverdi even to buy presents," says Tatev, the mother of the kindergarten student Narek
Five days a week in the morning, from 9:30 to 12:30, the children come to the preschool. During these three or four hours a day, they do painting, music, study the environment and receive basic knowledge about ecology, arithmetic. They enter the magical world of fairy tales and develop their speech.
This model of preschool was established by UNICEF for small communities like this; so that all the children in Armenia have equal opportunities to be educated and to develop their full potential. It has been proven that a child's brain develops at unspeakable and unrepeated speeds in the early age and early learning is extremely important for the present, and especially for the future of all children.
The mothers say that if there was no kindergarten, the children would have been watching cartoons all day long. "If there was no kindergarten, they would wake up in the morning, stay home, watching the phone, going outside, back home, again phone, again outside. And nothing educational would happen. Our children are very far removed: there is no dance club, no sports club, nothing. This kindergarten, when established, became a great thing for us. "
Sitting on the top of a mountain, in this remote and small village so far from Yerevan's realities, the children today have a colorful, bright, warm and developing corner, their own corner.
I had a long talk with four-year-old, but very active Anahit, who helps her mother set the table at home, her father - to bring firewood, and in the kindergarten, she is Ms. Anush's right hand. She arranges the chairs, gathers the toys: “everything has to be in its place, hasn’t it?”. Anahit said she loves to come to the kindergarten. First, she has things to do, then, there are many toys here and she decides what game to play and with which toy. At the end, she added, "I want my little sister Nane to come to our kindergarten too and play with the bears, and Ms. Anush will tell her fairy tales ․ Well, everyone at home has a lot to do, there is no time to read. "
In early March, just two weeks after our visit, the coronavirus reached Armenia; and this newly opened preschool closed its doors like all other kindergartens and centers in the country. The children stayed home like everyone else, and to help them develop mentally, physically and emotionally, UNICEF launched the #LearningAtHome digital campaign full of different games.
In August, UNICEF provided the necessary hygiene items to nine alternative kindergartens in Alaverdi and four in Amasia, so that both Jiliza Preschool and nearby kindergartens would be as safe as possible for children and their families on the way to reopening.
Today, on September 16, along with the reopening of the schools, Jiliza Preschool was also reopened and Alvard, Narek, Elina, Mher and Anahit came to the kindergarten again, but today without Khachik ․ Starting today he is a first grader.
Education and equal opportunities #ForEveryChild EVERYWHERE.