The City that Never Stops

Even when the pandemic stopped children from going to school, the city of Mabalacat, Pampanga forged on, took a stance, and stated that #ECCDmustnotstop.

When the Child Development Centers closed its doors, the City of Mabalacat, Pampanga found a way to open a lot of opportunities for early childhood care and learning to continue. Using an aggressive Information, Education, and Communication campaign, they started to orient their barangays and localized the national advisory as to how ECCD programs can continue in their area.

During the normal times, enrollees in the Child Development center were around 3,500-4,000 children. But because of the uncertainty of the pandemic, the city knew that not all of the children will continue participating in ECCD programs. That is why the city’s ECCD Office, led by Mr. Charlo Costales, started to conduct community profiling to know how many parents are still interested in continuing their children’s early learning.

Mr. Costales noted that even though there was a drop in enrollment, there was always good feedback from those who stayed. According to him, “Di kami nag stay sa usual na bigay mo lang yung module tapos bahala na sila. Pinalabas namin yung Child Development Workers namin. Every Friday kailangan nila magbalik ng report na signed ng parent na minentor nila.”

According to Julieta Concepcion, a Child Development Worker (CDW) for 20 years, “Nag community profiling kami kasi hindi namin alam kung sino yung may gusto pa mag-aral. Nakita namin kung sino yung interesado. Naka gather kami ng mga 2,500 na interesado pa din yung mga bata at pati na din mga magulang.”

Top Photos: Home Visit Assessment and Online Assessment Bottom Photos: Community Profiling and Parent Orientation

Aside from profiling, Teacher Juliet and her fellow CDWs also conducted online and home visitation assessments of children, orientation for the parents as to how CBPAV will be implemented, parent mentoring sessions, and regular monitoring that included weekly mentoring reports signed by the parents and photo documentation.

Supporting Teachers and Parents

Whenever she goes outside, Teacher Juliet also has her worries, “Syempre po may pamilya kami, minsan naririsk po yung pamilya namin. Pero dahil yung puso po namin ay maisulong yung ECCD at para nadin sa mga bata, ECCD must not stop.”

To address this, as CDWs ventured outside, the city made sure that they are provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), disinfectants, flu vaccine, and multivitamins.

Teachers receive various health provisions and their flu shot.

On the other hand, when they conduct parent mentoring sessions, they follow strict health protocols – five parents per batch and proper social distancing with masks on for all the participants. The city also conducted a Bayanihang Bulilit activity wherein Child Development Centers were refurbished to be ready for safe and conducive implementation of CBPAV activities.

Barangay Officials, Parents, CDWS, and Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) prepare the Child Development Centers to be a safe and conducive space for CBPAV.

During parent mentoring sessions parents are guided on how to implement a weekly learning plan and are then followed by a discussion of ideas based on what lessons worked and what needs to be improved. This system has greatly helped the parents and teachers since they were able to collaborate on how to implement the programs and change it whenever necessary.

Anna Pantua has been a parent of Teacher Juliet since her first child enrolled in the Child Development Center of their barangay. Unfortunately, her third child experienced the pandemic and they were one of the families that shifted to CBPAV. According to her it was challenging at first but she and the other parents were eventually able to cope because, “Bago namin ituro sa kanila (their kids), aaralin muna namin galing kay teacher. Yung pagpunta namin doon (parent mentoring sessions) yung one hour po nagdidiscuss na si teacher paano namin ituturo sa bata tapos ifi-feedback naman po naman namin yung progress.”

To further capacitate the parents, the city was also able to produce various videos for early learning. With the initial help of the City Information Office, CDWs now produce their own storytelling, weekly routine, and music and movement videos through an initiative named ECCD Commons. They have converted their National Child Development Center into a production studio and the city also hired an IT personnel that is designated in giving the CDWs assistance whenever they record and produce a video.

Top Photos: Recording of Videos Bottom Photos: Music and Movement Video and Storytelling Video

Instead of a whole class session, the videos produced used a segmented approach so that parents can choose videos depending on their needs and have the flexibility to adjust their weekly learning plans depending on the progress of their child. This may not be a conventional way of releasing videos to the parents but as Mr. Costales stated, “Iba-iba ang implementation pero iisa ang aming direksyon.”

Creating a Strong ECCD System even before the Pandemic

Mommy Anna stated that when the pandemic started most of the parents worried that ECCD services would not be provided anymore. But then she, and the other parents, were glad that the city was still able to continue its services, according to her, “Kahit nga po yung iba na wala (Internet), nakapag provide pa din sila.”

So how was the city able to continue its high-quality ECCD services during a pandemic?

This was made possible by a strong ECCD System that was created even before the pandemic. Through the years, the City of Mabalacat was able to conduct a rapid assessment of the state of ECCD programs and services in their area, then eventually institutionalize the program through the passing of their ECCD Ordinance that organized their local ECCD Council and created their ECCD Office. In addition, the City Government also provides provisions for ECCD materials, and renovates Child Development Centers.

Moreover, aside from a strong intrinsic motivation to continue ECCD services, the city was also able to give permanent positions for both office-based personnel and child development workers and aides, thus giving them an assurance that they will not lose their jobs in the middle of a pandemic. They were also classified as frontline workers and are already in the list of city hall workers to be vaccinated once the vaccine becomes available in their city.

Using a proactive approach in handling their ECCD programs and services, the city of Mabalacat has shown that even with the presence of a pandemic, they can always proudly say that #ECCDmustnotstop.