Day child care facilities in Nakuru County will be required to operate in safe and clean environments and hire staff qualified in Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) from recognized Teacher Training institutions if the Child Care Facilities Bill 2019 is ratified.
The Bill advocates for tough legal frameworks within which such centres will operate to ensure holistic development of children in order to bridge the gap of absent parents.
The proposed statute which makes it mandatory for these facilities to seek registration before starting operations also requires applicants to conduct due diligence and ensure that caregivers, ECDE teachers and support staff in their employment do not have previous convictions as prescribed under the Sexual Offences Act and the Children’s Act.
County Executive Committee Member for Education Mr Francis Mwangi observed that due to absence of regulatory system for child handlers at these centres, given that the law only recognizes formal education from nursery school, almost anybody can seek employment in the child care facilities or start their own.
Speaking during a consultative meeting on the Bill between Officials from the County’s Department of Education and members of the Education committee at the County Assembly Mr Mwangi noted that these child minders must exhibit good behaviour to the young children due to the attachment these children give to their handlers at that tender age.
“Some child care facilities are even run in dimly lit rooms in flats. This situation must be corrected. We urgently need to integrate child care into our education system. The starting point is establishing a tough legal framework to run the centres. The Bill proposes that licenses for Child care homes be renewed annually after thorough vetting of staff and inspection of facilities.
This will keep at bay those rushing for money at the expense of children’s health and cognitive development. We must also ensure the right qualifications. For now, the current porous situation only exposes our children to serious implications,” he said.
The proposed legislation provides that a child care facility will undergo compulsory inspection twice in every year to ascertain whether safety measures to protect children from injury and illness such as emergency exits, adequate ventilation, lockable door and windows and ablution blocks suitable for children are in working.
A person operating a child care facility that is not registered will now be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh 200,000 or imprisonment of one year or both. They will also be required to keep proper annual reports and records with applicants meeting child-staff ratio.
Any childcare provider previously convicted of a sexual offence and who fails to disclose such conviction when applying for employment in a child care facility will upon conviction serve a jail term of not less than three years or be fined not less than Sh 50,000 or both if the Bill becomes law.
The anticipated legislation provides that a childcare provider who knowingly employs a convicted sexual offender in his or her facility be liable upon conviction to a jail term not exceeding three years or pay a fine not exceeding Sh 1 million or to both.
The Child Care Facilities Bill 2019 gives a parent the right to know how his or her child will be disciplined and be given a copy of the discipline policy in place upon enrollment of the child. Parents will now have a right to visit the facility at any time while the child is there and will also be entitled to know qualification of caregivers.
If the Bill is assented into law any caregiver who takes advantage of his or her position and induces or seduces a child in their care to have sexual intercourse with him or her or commits any other offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2014 shall be deemed to have abused position of trust and shall be liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years without an option of a fine.
Chairman of the Education Committee Mr Douglas Ayabey noted that though day child care centres for working parents were an easy option they were weighed down with serious complications.
“Parents may find it easy to drop their baby in such centres. That may be a quick solution to make. But such a decision may affect the growth of your child unless the care is of high standard and readily meets the legal guidelines.
Most child care centres in our county have nothing to offer apart from the rooms they enclose the babies in exposing them to serious behavioural, intellectual and health hazards. Unqualified care givers can inhibit moral and intellectual development of a child,” he stated
by Anne Mwale