This blog feature is from Lorna Samuels. She is an early childhood practitioner at 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. Samuels 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?
LS: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our institution in many ways. For example, it has caused a severe reduction of number of children in our classes and has reduced the number of toddlers in our nursery department; this was because of social distancing restrictions as many parents started working from home. As a team, we lost the togetherness the we enjoyed before the pandemic that we had as coworkers and with the children which has not been fully restored. Additionally, due to the reduction in class sizes, the school has lost income which has affected the regular payment of salaries to the staff and also the general operations of the school.
ECC: How have you been coping with the closure of COVID-19?
LS: During the period when the school closed, the Principal of the school hosted a sensitization and training session for us to know about and learn how to use Google Meet and other virtual classroom platforms so that we would be equipped to continue teaching and learning remotely to support our children’s learning needs. This would have been my first time using the online platform to teach; it was a bit challenging. However, with time and further guidance, I was able to use various techniques to improve the delivery of my lessons. I was quite happy to be able to engage the children using this medium. I also received support from the ECC Region 6 team through attending virtual meetings that focused on how to cope with the stress brought on by the pandemic.
Personally, it has been a challenging experience for me and my family. Fortunately, I was able to apply for financial support through the Government’s COVID-19 Care Grant to help to offset my expenses. Although these expenses were not all covered, I am thankful to God, that through the support from my Principal and family, I was able to survive the full impact of the COVID-19 virus.
ECC: How have the children you teach been coping with the closure of school due to COVID-19?
LS: Since schools have been closed, the children have been actively engaged in remote learning classes using Google Meet platform. This was a first for the children which was not easy for them because they were used to the face-to-face classes, outdoor activities and, physical and social interactions. However, within a short time, the children were able to embrace the new learning platform and are now able to communicate and explore the features of the platform with their friends in the absence of normal face-to-face interactions. I have also observed that this new teaching and learning approach was greatly supported by their parents.
ECC: What is your hope for the children in a post-COVID-19 world?
LS: COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic since March 2020. This pandemic has caused a shift from teaching face-to-face to teaching online. As we continue to adjust to this new learning approach, several problems have surfaced and which are impacting learning. For example, there are still some children who are without a tablet and therefore are not able to fully participate in the use of the virtual platform. In addition, parents of these children are having difficulty to acquire a tablet or smart device to enable them to embrace this new normal way of learning. As we continue to navigate this rapidly evolving situation, it is my hope and desire that none of our children will be left behind. The fact is, it is at this early stage of development that our children are introduced to formal education. Therefore, they should not be hindered in any way, shape or form from acquiring the knowledge and skills needed for their development.