The County Government of Nakuru has unveiled plans to build a multimillion modern breast feeding and baby care centre to take care of toddlers as their mothers’ work.
The Sh18 million facility to be set up in partnership with African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) and Kidogo organization will be established at Kaptembwo Primary School within Nakuru Town West Sub-County.
The County Government will also employ professionally trained and qualified child caregivers who will be seconded to the facility to offer training to the caregivers who wish to offer the same services or establish day care child centres elsewhere.
County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Education Mr Francis Mwangi said the devolved unit’s administration had resolved to construct the facility after realizing that most women in small-scale businesses quit after giving birth, making it almost impossible to resume after several months.
He said with the crèche, mothers in formal employment will give birth and continue with their work uninterrupted because their babies will be under custody of professionally trained and qualified child caregivers operating in a safe and healthy environment.
“The centre will allow parents to give their best at work as they worry less about their babies’ care. Better parents make better employees. The facility will also feature a breast feeding zone to address challenges Kenya mothers experience in finding suitable public spaces to breastfeed, clean and care for their infants,” noted the CECM.
He said some women have been forced to use public toilets that have no sitting space to change their babies’ nappies while travelling.
The CECM observed that the crèche will also create jobs for those selling children items besides ensuring babies don’t miss the nutritional value of a mother’s milk for at least six months as recommended by the World Health Organization.
Many mothers, he stated, have to stop breast feeding their children earlier than required so as to resume either formal or informal jobs, to fend for their families.
While stating that exigencies of modern life dictate that parents wean their babies as early as possible to allow them go back to work and that changing employment trends were driving Kenyan parents to work longer hours, Mr Mwangi indicated that the county government would continue forging more partnerships with entrepreneurs and companies towards investing more in day care centres to meet demand for specialized child care services.
Speaking at a Nakuru hotel after holding consultative meeting with representatives of APHRC and Kidogo organization Mr Mwangi who was flanked by his Social Services counterpart Ms Sylvia Anyango announced that the facility will be fitted with mattresses for the babies to sleep on, toys and other equipment required for baby care and will accommodates 80 babies at a time.
He also announced that day care child facilities in the County will be required to operate in safe and clean environments and hire qualified staff in Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) from recognized Teacher Training institutions if the Child Care Facilities Bill 2019, is assented to.
The proposed statute has so far gone through the first reading and now it’s undergoing the mutual discussion between the department of Education and the County Assembly’s Education committees.
The CEC stated that 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 legislation 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.
He observed that more domestic workers are becoming savvy about employment laws such as minimum wage, health care cover, and other allowances — leading to higher costs of maintaining them adding that some parents are paying up to Sh7,000 per month at private day-care centres.
“Sometimes, house-helps leave without notice, rendering mothers who have to go to work helpless, whereas others find it difficult to concentrate at work. The center is set to provide a safe and secure environment with high quality affordable early childhood Education and child care,” Mr Mwangi indicated.
According to Ms Anyango the dawn of the free primary education programme, coupled with changing faces of the domestic worker, have also robbed house help bureaus of a ready supply of personnel to drive the “home managers” industry.
She said a surge in kidnappings and child theft and the rising number of single parents in contemporary society has also served to significantly spur demand for day care centres.
She added: “Striking the balance between going to work and taking care of one’s baby has been a headache for young Kenyans eager to see their businesses or careers and children grow simultaneously. Some couples have, after fierce debates even disagreement, agreed to terminate employment temporarily to take care of a newborn.”
Commenting on the Child Care Facilities Bill 2019, Anyango indicated that the proposed legislation provides that a child care facility will undergo compulsory inspection twice in every year to ascertain whether safety measures to help protect children from injury and illness such as emergency exits, adequate ventilation, lockable door and windows and ablution blocks suitable for children are working.
“Due to the absence of a 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. 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,” she explained adding the Bill proposes that licenses for child care homes be renewed annually after thorough vetting of staff and inspection of facilities.
She warned that some of these untrained child minders may pass on bad behaviour to the young children due to the attachment children give to their handlers at that tender age adding that regulatory framework will keep at bay those rushing for money at the expense of children’s health and cognitive development.
A person operating a child care facility that is not registered will now be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh200,000 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 Sh50,000 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 will be liable upon conviction to a jail term not exceeding three years or pay a fine not exceeding Sh1 million or to both.
The Child Care Facilities Bill 2019 gives a parent right to know how his or her child will be disciplined and be given a copy of the discipline policy in place upon enrolment 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 the 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 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.
By Anne Mwale and Agnes Kerubo