In the absence of any government guidelines for day care centres, a Mumbai-based think-tank has come up with a 10-point advisory for the safety of children at such places. The advisory comes days after a nine-month old girl was allegedly assaulted in a Kharghar child care centre .
The early childhood association (ECA) — consisting of 200 preschools and experts — has prepared directives for parents and day care centre owners to ensure the staff does not misbehave with the children.
Experts said children left at day care centres are at risk because the government does not have any regulation over the sector. “Anybody can start a day care in India. There are no restrictions or licences required by the government,” said Swati Popat Vats, president of the ECA and Podar Education Network.
What’s worse, even teachers and attendants do not have to be qualified for the work. In countries like the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates, day care staffers need to be qualified in baby-sitting courses.
“In India, the education and women and child development ministry are fighting over which department should look after day care centres,” said Vats. “Education officials shirk responsibility since day cares don’t impart education, while the ministry of women is also not regulating it.”
So the guidelines insist on the owners conducting background checks and police verifications while hiring staff. “Parents must make it a point to demand these checks if they are not done by the centres,” said Vats.
Another directive suggests training the support staff who help caretakers look after the children. Owners should tell their staff explicitly to handle children as per the company policy and not as according to their own beliefs, state the guidelines.
“Often an attendant thinks it is alright to whack or spank a child, because that is the practice followed at their home and that’s why it’s important to have a clear policy on behaving with children,” said Reeta Sonawat, head of department, human resource development, SNDT University and executive director, ECA.
ECA has even come up with an ideal adult-child ratio that can be followed by day care centres. There should be one adult for every three to four children who are less than a year-old as they require extra attention. A ratio of 1:5 can work for children between one to two years.
“While conducting quality checks and safety, we found that along with the caretaker or teacher, there should be at least three to four attendants for every 20 kids,” said Sonawat, adding that parents should ensure their child is not left alone with any of the attendants.
A 30-year old attendant from the Kharghar centre was arrested by the Navi Mumbai police for assaulting the girl. CCTV footage of the incident showed the attendant hitting, kicking and throwing the child when other kids were asleep. On Sunday, the employee was taken into police custody.