Ministry of Education and UNICEF inaugurate first model inclusive ECCD centre in Thimphu

Joint Press Release

11 November 2022
Two men shaking hands
UNICEF Bhutan/2022/SPelden
Education Minister JB Rai with UNICEF Bhutan Representative Dr Will Parks.

Thimphu, November 11, 2022 : To ensure children with disabilities are able to access early learning interventions, the Ministry of Education and UNICEF inaugurated Bhutan’s first model inclusive Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Centre in Thimphu today.

The model inclusive ECCD centre at Changangkha Middle Secondary School, an inclusive school, is designed for children with disabilities and the urban poor, and can accommodate about 30 children. The centre is located strategically next to an inclusive school to facilitate transition for children with disabilities to formal schooling.

Education Minister JB Rai, said enhancing access to early learning for children is a national priority for the Royal Government of Bhutan and acknowledged the critical role ECCD facilitators play in nurturing the development of children.

“We have seen the positive impacts of accessing early learning on children and the opening of an inclusive model ECCD centre today is an important step towards enhancing access for children with all abilities,” the education minister said at the inaugural. “The ministry thanks UNICEF and partners for their continued support towards children’s development and well-being in Bhutan.”

The model inclusive centre in Thimphu is the first of three-model inclusive ECCD centres that UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Education is establishing in the country. The other two centres are in Gelephu, Sarpang, and Trashigang to cover all three regions of eastern, western and central Bhutan. The centres in Gelephu and Trashigang are also located in inclusive schools to facilitate transition to formal schooling for children. The cost of constructing the three model inclusive centres is about USD 180,000. 

Evidence-based research provides strong rationale for investment in ECCD, especially for children with developmental delays or disabilities. While ECCD services have been expanding in Bhutan over the years, the services did not facilitate enrolment of children with disabilities. This was identified as a gap in the 2020 Bhutan ECCD Evaluation report.

To address this critical gap, the Ministry of Education in partnership with UNICEF, has established the model inclusive ECCD centre as an effort to increase ECCD access for children with disabilities as well to facilitate the provision of early intervention services in the country. The centre will also serve as a resource centre for early intervention in the country to replicate similar services nationwide.

UNICEF Bhutan Representative Dr Will Parks said providing ECCD interventions to all children and families is critical to ensure all children reach their full potential. “When ECCD centres are inclusive, we can provide early intervention services for children with development delays or disabilities to ensure their optimal development,” Dr Will Parks said.

Thimphu was chosen as the location for the first model inclusive ECCD centre given the high prevalence of children with disability and urban poor.

Changangkha Middle Secondary School principal Nyendo said that according to the PHCB 2017, there are 131 children with disabilities aged 3-5 years in Thimphu district and that 19.28 per cent of these children are in Thimphu thromde.

The school has 983 students including 105 children with disabilities.

“There are around 11 types of disabilities among the 105 students studying from grades pre-primary to 10 and, they did not get any preparation from an early age since there was no inclusive ECCD centre in the community,” the principal said. “Now with this inclusive model ECCD centre, many children with disabilities in the community will have access to intervention and other services from an early age.”

Early childhood offers a critical window of opportunity to shape the trajectory of a child’s holistic development and build a foundation for their future. Coinciding with the birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth King and the National Children’s Day, the country’s first model inclusive ECCD centre is dedicated to the children of Bhutan.


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