Today’s blog continues the series to feature perspectives from the early childhood sector on the impact of COVID-19.
This blog feature is from Ms. Sonia James. She is the Principal of Faith Mission Early Childhood Development Centre in Sydenham, St. Catherine, a Mixed Pre-School. Pre-Covid-19 the ECI had an enrollment of 45 children.
ECC: Thank you Ms. James for taking part in this interview and sharing your views about the impact of COVID-19 on the early childhood development sector.
ECC: In what ways have COVID-19 affected your ECI?
SJ: COVID -19 has affected us in many ways. Financially, where we are unable to pay staff members their full salary. The school’s population has decreased to about 40%. We have had staff members who have resigned to seek employment elsewhere, as sufficient funds to pay salaries were not available due to none collection of fees. We have also experienced some challenges collecting outstanding school fees as some parents were hesitant to go to the financial institutions to conduct business. Additionally, like many parts of the country, there are technological challenges with some children unable to engage in remote learning due to them not having access to devices at home.
ECC: How have you and your staff been coping with the closure of school due to COVID-19?
SJ: My staff and I are trying our best to cope since we closed schools due to COVID-19. As a team, we have worked closely with the parents and children who have limited resources to continue to provide the support they need. We hold small face-to-face meetings at the institution, according to the COVID-19 protocols, to plan and prepare activities to continue remote learning for the children. We have a vibrant School Board along with the Church that continued to monitor the affairs of the school and staff members and we have received regular counselling from Pastors and Counsellors from our church family.
ECC: How have the children enrolled at your ECI been coping with the closure of school due to COVID-19?
SJ: Following the Prime Minister’s announcement in March 2020 for the closure of schools, we gathered all the children to explain to them what will be happening. The children have asked about their friends and told us that they were missing each other. Fortunately, most of the children and staff are from the community so we have been able to continue communication and interaction. I am proud to say that the students, teachers, parents and the community have a good relationship.
ECC: What is your hope for the children in a post-COVID-19 world?
SJ: My hope is that all children be privileged to education and none will be left behind despite COVID-19. It is also my hope that strategies be implemented so that children at the early education level may acquire knowledge and skills to foster their holistic growth and development in this global situation. As a nation builder, I would like to see some form of donation be made available in either cash or kind, to ensure that all our children have equal opportunities to embrace the online learning platforms in order to continue their education.
No one doubts that COVID-19 is one of the direst threats the world has ever faced. And yet, amidst the confusion and anxiety, there are ever stronger signs of hope and solidarity, a sense of, and desire for, togetherness. It is this spirit of global togetherness that gives us hope. In this time of crisis, we are all neighbors in the world, and success will only be achieved when all people, in all countries, communities, homes are protected. There is hope and a future for our children when we put our trust in God.