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|News for Early Childhood Education|
Why Has the Ministry of Education Closed Centres Until Next Week?
Close your doors to children until next Monday - the Ministry of Education has said to all early childhood services (and schools) within the Christchurch City, Selwyn and Waimakariri districts due to this being a Civil Defence requirement. Note that:
1. The regional controller of Civil Defence Emergency has said that as far as schools are concerned individual school boards of trustees may make the decision to reopen on Thursday.
2. A phone call to a random selection of early childhood services in Christchurch by ChildForum revealed that all those phoned were indeed closed. Of those who had answerphone recordings a common theme was that was no structural damage but that they could not re-open until Monday at the earliest because this is what they were told by the Ministry of Education.
The possibility of water contamination is an issue for all early childhood services, businesses and homes alike. Boiling water for 3 minutes has been recommended, and allowing it to cool before drinking. This is something that adults in early childhood services should easily manage providing there is electricity or a safe means of boiling water.
If the sewer is damaged, if toilets are not working, if the service has a chimney and it has not been inspected and reported to be safe, if there is any doubt as to the safety of the building, or if there is a risk of falling debris, then the individual early childhood service should not be opened to children on Monday or any other day until problems have been fixed.
Children may be safer being at their early childhood service, than at home if the centre building is modern and earthquake proofed and their home is not. Many parents will be involved in cleaning up at home and at their places of work and there is a risk to children if they are not well supervised.
Some centres made the decision early on to close for a week based on staff need to be with their family. For example, Heathcote Valley Preschool in the Port Hills wrote on their website that their building sustained no damage but they would be closed for a week to enable staff to be closer to their families.
At many centres, staff and managers have had a busy time contacting families. For example, the Courtyard Montessori Preschool was found to be structurally sound but like other preschools in Christchurch it has had to close its doors. The staff sent an email out to everyone and phoned all families to let them know.
Being closed for the week provides very precious non-contact time for all early childhood teachers and staff.
ChildForum talked with Rosalie Ardagh whose new centre, The Nurtury Early Childcare Centre, was due to open this week. She explained that as the Centre has received no damage it would have been helpful for parents who needed to get sorted either at work or home to have been allowed to open. But remaining closed is giving staff time to begin to get themselves together, to spend time with their own families, and to plan together for how they will support parents and children emotionally affected by what’s happened.
The Ministry of Education Traumatic Incident Team is available to support early childhood providers, staff and teachers in talking through what they are dealing with and how best to help children and families as they return to the service. Kidsfirst Kindergartens (Canterbury free kindergartens) have asked the Traumatic Incident Team to run two sessions for their teachers and staff this week.
Argdagh said, “What I have learned from my team is that every person in the city has experienced the same event quite differently depending on their situation and circumstances. Some are terrified and others untouched. We have staff afraid to leave their children, some quite emotional and others just determined to get on.”
Childcare/Kindergarten Fees and Teachers/Staff Wages
There is provision, because this is an emergency, for the Ministry of Education to continue funding early childhood services for the hours that children are normally in attendance.
Parents should not be charged fees unless it is stated in the Service's fee policy or enrolment form that fees will continue to be charged when the service is forced to close.
Staff and teachers wages should continue to be paid. 'Should' because this is key to maintaining good employment relations and not adding further to the stress that staff will already be feeling. However, it may depend on the employment contract of individual staff and teachers.
While children can not attend until the civil defence emergency is lifted and the Ministry of Education also permits early childhood services to commence operating, employers can require staff to attend work and do other duties within their job description providing the building has been assessed as structurally sound.
While some children slept in their beds at around 4.30am on Saturday 4th Sept 2010 others were woken by parents and caregivers struggling to seek refuge under door frames, beds, tables or to seek safety by getting clear of their building.
This was a strong powerful jolting earthquake - not the rumbling type that we are used to New Zealand.
It had many fearing for their lives, and there are stories of many lucky escapes and near misses from falling bricks and buildings.
Had it been earlier in the evening - or during working hours there could have been many deaths.
Initially thought to be a 7.4 earthquake and later downgraded to 7.1 it was strong enough to send many old buildings - mostly brick building and not earthquaked proofed crumbling to the ground. Electricity was cut and households and businesses were left with out running water. By late Saturday many areas of Christchurch had electricity again and running water, but some rural areas and areas hardest hit did not.
The earthquake - a natural disaster - has achieved what Environment Canterbury has been trying to achieve for many years and that is to clean up Christchurch's air by getting rid of open fires and old burners.
Walking around the city and neighbouring suburbs one could easily get the feeling of walking through a chimney graveyard.
Many houses with chimneys suffered damaged. Often it was falling chimneys that caused further damage in going through roofs or falling onto vehicles and fences.
Christchurch has long had a problem with smog, and open fires during winter certainly don't help. The financial cost of and damage caused by many chimneys tumbling could be looked at for its benefit for the environment. Cleaner air and less smog can only be good for the young children in the region!
Personal Accounts Showing How Families and Children Coped
Arwen Hann, ChildForum's communication manager, who lives in Christchurch with her husband and young child shares her family's experience of the earthquake:
"We have been lucky, I think, in the fact that our son is really too young to be affected by what has happened. He slept through the first jolt and the following aftershocks in the early hours and knowing he was safe in his cot we left him to sleep.
"Our biggest problem in the following hours was a lack of electricity and water. It is hard to explain to a two-year-old that he can’t have toast for breakfast or watch one of his favourite shows on television. Eventually we decided on the simple option of telling him the television and other electrical items were broken – a concept he understands – which helped him to realise we weren’t doing things just because we felt like it but that it was beyond our control.
"No power meant we had to be inventive withmeals as both our oven and our hob are electric. My son was excited to be allowed to share Coco Pops, a cereal he is rarely allowed to eat, with his dad for breakfast, and we cooked baked beans for lunch on our gas barbeque.
"We kept him busy with toys and books and when the aftershocks came tried to keep things as normal as possible for him despite our own concerns."
Later the power went back on: "Boiling water is still a necessity however, and I have been religiously sticking to the boil for 3 minutes rule. If it were just the two of us, I might chance things a bit more but with a small child it is just not worth the risk to his health."Click here to go to a copy of Arwen's full article.
In the video provided opposite, Eleanor and Elise report on the earthquake and how they felt about it as older children.
On the one hand viewing the destruction of buildings, fences, chimneys, and cars was fascinating and brilliant for learning about construction and engineering. But the distress that repeated waves of aftershocks caused was something else because once one had seen the destruction that an earthquake can cause then smaller aftershocks become very frightening.
Eleanor and Elise give ideas in the video as to what parents and other adults can do to support and understand children at such times. Water and electricity, the things that adults worry about, were less important than cuddles, physical comfort (and treats like ice-cream from the deep freeze before it melted!), and being kept busy. Also important for older children is information and explanations about what is happening and why as this helps them to cope. Click on the arrow to view the video.
Coping in Times of a Natural Disaster - The Impact of the Christchurch Earthquake on a Family and Child (1 match)
Whether to Stay or Go? Lessons from Research about the Effects of Evacuation and Natural Disasters on Children (1 match)
Parents' Choices of Childcare/Early Childhood Education Following the Christchurch Earthquakes (1 match)
Breaking News - Earthquake in Christchurch (1 match)
Hurrah - NZ College of ECE in Christchurch Now Has a New Permanent Campus (1 match)