Bhutan becomes first country in Asia to pilot caring for the caregiver programme

MoE and UNICEF to pilot the programme in three districts

The pilot phase, which began from Trashigang , will train 75 ECCD facilitators and Dzongkhags  education officers across three districts, making Bhutan the first country in Asia to roll out the programme on promoting the health and wellbeing of caregivers. ( Pic; UNICEF Bhutan)

Yangchen Lhamo

In order to equip Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) facilitators with the skills on caregiver support focusing on health and emotional support, the Ministry of Education and UNICEF Bhutan are piloting the Caring for Caregiver (CFC) training package in Trashigang, Tsirang and Punakha Dzongkhags.

The pilot phase, which began from Trashgang from the 17 of this month, will train 75 ECCD facilitators and Dzongkhags education officers across three districts, making Bhutan the first country in Asia to roll out the programme on promoting the health and wellbeing of caregivers.

Caregivers have a large impact on children’s survival and development and their wellbeing is critical in achieving optimal child development. However, there is today little emphasis on caregiver health and emotional well-being, especially in resource-constrained communities with limited access to such forms of essential support. The COVID-19 pandemic, while threatening the wellbeing of children, at the same time affected the wellbeing of caregivers – families, ECCD facilitators and community members may not be equipped with adequate skills to enable them to support caregiver needs.

To address this critical gap, UNICEF with support from the LEGO Foundation developed a CFC package, a foundational training module to complement existing packages related to caregiving and parenting. The CFC focuses on a strengths-based counselling approach to build caregiver confidence, support stress management, self-care, conflict resolution skills, family engagement, and social support.

The CFC materials were adapted specifically to Bhutan’s context to build on the existing National Parenting Education Manual developed by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF. In 2019, UNICEF supported the Ministry to conduct a nationwide rollout of the National Parenting Education Manual, which is today delivered through ECCD centres.

The government has been emphasizing the need for access to a quality ECCD programme through aggressive advocacy and support with an ambitious target of reaching 50 per cent ECCD coverage by 2023 and 100 per cent by 2030.

Education Secretary Karma Tshering said that the Caring for Caregiver package is a much awaited programme and an integral part of the ECCD programme.

“Responsive caregiving and early stimulation will go a long way in benefiting our children with long lasting relationships with parents, which are critical to children’s healthy and positive development with best learning outcomes,” the Secretary said.

The three pilot Dzongkhags were selected to ensure regional representation. During the pilot phase, a research-based monitoring and evaluation approach will be applied to CFC implementation thereby ensuring that the packages are relevant and serve the needs of caregivers to strengthen parenting. Based on the findings, the resources will be further improved before the programme is rolled out nationwide.

UNICEF Bhutan Representative Dr Will Parks said that the CFC package is a caregiver and family-centred training that focuses on encouraging families to support and protect children.

“The pilot of the CFC package in Bhutan is a testament of the strong partnership between Ministry of Education and UNICEF in our united effort to improve the health, development, and well-being of children in their earliest years,” Dr Will Parks said.