If kindergarten teachers are not classified as providers of vital services and are not provided with testing and personal protective equipment (PPE), keeping kindergartens open during the ongoing emergency situation will cause significantly more harm than good, the Estonian Association of Kindergarten Teachers (ELAL) said.
The ELAL and several other kindergarten-related organizations sent an appeal to the Ministry of Social Affairs in which it proposed adding kindergarten and other preschool childcare facility personnel to the list of vital service providers eligible for testing.
"In order to stop the spread of viruses, it is necessary for the teachers and auxiliary staff working in public childcare facility groups to be classified as employees of vital services," the statement reads. "This would guarantee them the PPE necessary for work, grant them access to viral testing if needed and directed by their employer, and would allow for a reduction in the spread of infection while performing work duties. In the case of a positive test result, we could immediately isolate sources of infection and prevent the further spread of a virus."
If this cannot be done, the authors of the appeal find that keeping kindergartens and other preschool childcare facilities open during the ongoing emergency situation will cause significantly more harm than good.
"We need to maintain the situation in which the children of front-line workers and those who cannot cope any other way can bring their child to kindergarten," the statement reads. "It is starting to happen that parents are growing tired and bringing their kids to kindergarten, but there is no way of knowing who might be carrying the infection. All employees and children displaying symptoms need testing in order to avoid contact with infected persons."
Kindergartens lacking sufficient PPE
Currently, kindergartens are only equipped with disinfecting agents and gloves; a select few also have a minimal supply of masks.
"In this situation, we cannot ensure the isolation of children or staff who get sick during the day, or the prevention of their infecting others," the statement reads. "It is not possible to keep a two-meter distance from small children, or fulfill other requirements as set out by the state."
The associations are asking the state to supply operating kindergartens and other preschool childcare facilities with PPE as soon as possible, including masks that meet requirements, disposable gloves, and disinfectants.
The appeal to the Ministry of Social Affairs was signed by the ELAL, the Union of Early Childhood Education in Estonia (EAÜ), the Estonian Educational Personnel Union (EHL), the Estonian Association of Reggio Emilia (EREÜ) and the Estonian Speech Therapists Association (ELÜ).
Editor: Aili Vahtla