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Learning blocks used in preschools and daycares.

With members of the public and private sector working on rotation in the office and at home, there has been concern by some parents who questioned what would become of their children who are at home as schools and nurseries/day-cares remain closed.

Concerns relating to who would be fit to supervise their children with online classes and also attend to other pressing needs were uppermost in the minds of parents and guardians who were without the security and comfort of leaning on family or friends.

Single mothers, households where two parents are working, and settings with grandparents who are not tech-savvy were the ones that experienced the highest level of alarm and despair as they scrambled to find an appropriate and safe guardian…even incurring additional expenses to hire a babysitter.

However, some have turned to daycare providers and nursery owners to provide child care services on the low.

Understanding the difficult choices many parents faced and desperately wanting to ensure her nursery/daycare which only opened its doors in January—was able to survive the pandemic, a qualified teacher operating in East Trinidad admitted her meagre earnings were being supplemented through a “back door” arrangement as she provided daily babysitting services.

Acknowledging it was against the law as well as the advice of the health officials, the woman who requested her name not be revealed—explained, “I know it was wrong but I did not have a choice. I initially complied with the directive to remain closed but after three months, I could no longer ignore that my savings were being depleted and the bills kept coming…they are still coming.”

Indicating she had enforced the public health regulations to social distance the two primary school children she looked after daily whilst supervising them during online classes—and ensuring they sanitized frequently and wore masks when necessary—the anxious woman said, “This cannot sustain me anymore. I cannot pay the salaries of the other two teachers and I have had to let them go.”

“I do not want to take on more children as I want to ensure they receive proper supervision, but with only these two…it is impossible to continue operating.”

Having announced the permanent closure of the facility which previously catered for six babies and ten pre-schoolers, along with an aftercare/home-work centre— the upset woman is hoping things can return to normal in January when these institutions are reopened.

In April, as T&T stared down the on-set of the COVID-19 pandemic—Executive Director of the Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD), Folade Mutota appealed to the Children’s Authority (CA) to handle upcoming cases with extra sensitivity and compassion.

Back then, she advised the CA and Government by extension, to have a proper operational response plan to deal with children’s issues arising from the crisis.

Mutota quoted President Paula-Mae Weekes who had referred to this period as not normal times and which required persons to act differently.

Mutota said in these not normal times, it was incumbent on the CA to be mindful of the hard childcare decisions many parents would be required to make in this time of COVID-19 restrictions and social isolation.