Monitoring Day 'Care' Centres - Daily Independent
It is imperative that new legislation ensures that all establishments in the public and private sector employing over a hundred people provide crÃ¨che services.
A national daily newspaper, Daily Sun, has provided a very important public service by producing an incisive report titled, 'How Day Care Centres Kill Children Slowly.' The report is thought-provoking and very scary.
Overall, it goes into the heart of the institutional failures associated with a dysfunctional state. Most people already know the central thrust in this issue. This is that 'many caregivers in Nigeria often administer sleeping drugs and other sedatives to children in their care.' The terrifying punch line is nevertheless alarming, 'But experts warn that sedating children can affect their vital organs and cause them permanent damage or death'. In other words criminal intent and activity is implied here.
This is a disaster that a pro-active political establishment should have anticipated. No one needs to be a sociologist specializing in urbanization trends and development to have detected the trend. With changing work patterns and more working mothers, anyone should have foreseen an explosion in the demand for crÃ¨ches and day care centres. This ought to have led to thorough regulatory standards and uncompromisable enforcement. Those in breech should have faced stiff sanctions.
Furthermore, by making an example of those who contravene the guidelines, a deterrence effect would have been induced. Now something has to be done urgently. For no responsible society can imperil the health and future well-being of innocent children with such reckless abandon.
For a start there must be fast-tracked regulation, monitoring as well as rigorous enforcement. Safety standards must be rigorously spelt out and enforced. Many of the physical structures being used for day care centres are in reality accidents waiting to happen. New regulations must insist on regular fire drilling exercises by staff, the provision of adequate (and working) fire extinguishers and enough acceptable doors, windows and emergency exits.
In addition the motor vehicles which are used to convey the kids must be in acceptable, motorable state. All of this will of course lead to an increase in operating costs. However, there is no alternative. Since the demand for day care centres will continue to increase in all the urban centres, government itself must be pro-active.
For example, it is imperative that new legislation ensures that all establishments in the public and private sector employing over, let us say, a hundred people provide crÃ¨che services. The inevitable cost-increase can be offset by issuing tax-credits. The companies themselves will benefit as all the recent studies have shown an increase in productivity when nursing mothers know that their children are in the same building with them under secured, professional care.
The country after all has a reservoir of retired very well trained matrons and other retired nursing personnel who can be pressed into service. It is also a very practical way of augmenting their often inadequate pensions. Companies such as for example Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and Access Bank Plc amongst others are already at the forefront in the provision of these services. They should be emulated and encouraged.
In any new regulation, maternal and paternal leave should also be extended and made more flexible. Finally, it is now acknowledged that pre-school learning is vital. All over the world the emphasis is now on this. Therefore a new policy must factor in the synergy between well-run crÃ¨ches and day care centres and preparation for formal schooling. An accident is waiting to happen in this sector. As a civilised society, we must prevent it from happening. It's time to act now, urgently and decisively.