Preschool owners and educators in Mumbai are unhappy with recent guidelines released by the Centre to regulate private preschools across the country. Among a host of norms, the Regulatory Guidelines for Private Play Schools, 2017, mandates schools to register with local law enforcement agencies and get a police verification done for all their employees, but educators said that this is not sufficient to ensure child care and safety.
Guidelines issued by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in January, following public outcry over the safety of children in day-care centres and kindergartens, the educators believe that they don’t cover child safety extensively. The new policy has also given states a lot of leeway in implementing the policy.
A Mumbai-based think-tank, Early Childhood Association (ECA), which consists of 250-odd preschools and child development specialists, have recently started an online petition, asking the government to come up with uniform guidelines after consulting with the stakeholders.
Head of the group, Swati Popat Vats, said that merely having CCTV cameras, as stipulated in the guidelines, is not sufficient to guarantee children’s safety in the preschools. Security measures have to be backed by effective training programmes for teachers and non-teaching staff that is in contact with the children.
“The brutal assault on an 11-month-old girl at a Kharghar day-care recently was recorded on CCTV. Presence of the cameras didn’t deter the helper from beating the child but what might have helped is training and sensitising her,” said Vats.
Highlighting the need for a uniform policy that covers children’s health, curriculum to be followed by the preschools, appointment of staff and their qualifications, adult-child ratio, Vats said, “ The policy should be for childcare from the time they start to go to any professional set-up be it daycare or preschools.”
Educators cited the recent example of the Bengaluru civic-body prohibiting preschools from operating from residential areas. Around 4,000 preschools there were issued notices to move to commercial premises, stating that it is illegal to run a school from home. But Mumbai continues to have preschools run in homes, basements and other private spaces.
Vats said that if every city has its own rules, preschools will become difficult to run. “There needs to be just one uniform policy applicable to everyone and it must contain certain non-negotiables, which cannot be changed,” said Vats.
According to Reeta Sonawat, professor and head of the human resource development department, SNDT Women’s University, Santacruz, said that the policy can look at the best practices from all states.
“Separate spaces, which are not inside a flat or a bungalow, are needed for preschools,” said Sonawat. “Such a rule must be replicated across the country. This is possible if there is only one implementing agency appointed in every state.”
The association has sent its recommendations to Maneka Gandhi, union minister for women and child development.