In the wake of the brutal assault on an 11-month-old girl at a daycare in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, the Maharashtra government is framing a new policy for safety of children in crèches and daycares.
The policy, which is almost ready to be finalised, states that private-run crèches and daycares must register themselves with the local government agencies; a move that will help keep tab on the hitherto unregulated sector.
The policy will cover establishments catering to children up to three years of age. This is the first time that Maharashtra has developed a policy to cover children in this age group.
Besides making registration mandatory, the policy mandates for training programmes for the staff working in these centres to sensitise them in handling children with care. Moreover, an advisory body consisting of preschools will also be set up to mentor daycares.
The policy has been drawn from the Regulatory Guidelines for Private Play Schools, 2017, released by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in January, as well as adding suggestions from its expert panel.
“The Kharghar incident opened people’s eyes to the insensitive nature of many of the people who are in the business of child care. So the policy will focus on training,” said Reeta Sonawat, professor and head of department for human resources development, SNDT Women’s University, who is on the panel of experts forming the policy, adding that, “The policy is in the last stage right now. After one more meeting we will submit it to the government,” said.
Despite repeated incidents such as corporal punishments and child sexual abuse in preschools in the last few years, the Maharashtra government so far didn’t have a policy to protect its tiny-tots.
As a result, daycares and preschools are mushrooming unchecked across the state especially in Mumbai, where many schools are being run from basements and garages, said educators. Since the government doesn’t prescribe any minimum qualification or training requirement for staff handling the kids, many of the centres hire unqualified teachers and caretakers without any experience in childcare.
Child development specialists said that the preschool sector, too, should be covered under the new policy. “The daycare policy is being framed only because of the Kharghar incident. Similar policy needs to be prepared for children between three and six as well,” said Swati Popat Vats, president of the Podar Education Network and head of the Early Childhood Association, a Mumbai based think-tank.