Today’s blog is an interview from Dr. Tracy-Ann Morgan-Smith as she shares her perspective of the impact of COVID-19 on the sector. She is Director of the Regulation and Monitoring Department at the Early Childhood Commission.
ECC: Thank you for taking part in this interview and sharing your perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on the ECD sector and the support that your department/unit has been providing.
ECC: Could you kindly provide us with an overview of your Department/Unit’s work and how it directly impacts the ECD sector?
Dr. MS: The Regulation and Monitoring Department carries out the core function of monitoring and regulating Early Childhood Institutions (ECIs) through a system of inspection. ECIs are monitored against the 12 National Standards. The department has two units, the Registration Unit and the Inspectorate. The Registration Unit supports the registration of ECIs through facilitating the registration process, the management and upkeep of institutions’ files and offers customer service. The Inspectorate ensures compliance with the 12 National Standards by conducting inspections of ECIs and making recommendations for meeting the Standards.
ECC: How has COVID-19 affected your work in the ECD sector?
Dr. MS: The Covid-19 Pandemic has resulted in the suspension of face-to-face operations in most early childhood institutions outside of daycares and nurseries. Subsequently, virtual spaces have to be monitored by early childhood inspectors. Due to virtual modality, inspectors are not able to observe children during some specified periods critical to their development. These include playtime with peers, transitioning and personal interactions with teachers, caregivers and peers as well as, mealtime interactions. While teachers are encouraged to interact with their students in virtual spaces, the power of the human touch for young children by their teachers is not there and this can cause young children to feel stressed especially since the physical separation time has been so long.
ECC: What has your Department/Unit been doing to support the ECD sector during the pandemic?
Dr. MS: The department has supported the writing of parent activity plans to assist parents with engaging and interacting with their children at home using developmentally appropriate activities. Support is also given to the Communication Department in preparing activities to be broadcast using multimedia to engage and support children.
Early childhood inspectors carry out visits to daycares and nurseries to ensure health and safety measures are in place and that the protocols of the Ministry of Health and Wellness are being observed.
Inspectors also support the training of early childhood practitioners using virtual spaces and assist them in preparing plans and policies to support protocols for operating in a pandemic. Some of these include Health and Sanitation Plan for institutions, sanitization schedules, and other requisite health and safety measures.
ECC: What are your hopes for the ECD sector in a post-COVID-19 world?
Dr. M.S: The sector will see the need for embracing the Standards and be encouraged to comply as the measures set out in the Standards when observed, are for the best interest of the children even post COVID-19. Additionally, I hope to see some commitment and support from a wide cross-section of institutions in society to assist early childhood institutions in meeting the standards.