The hectic lifestyle of parents in the capital city encounters the tough decision to send their children to day care centres. As the number of families with both parents working outside their homes increased, the demand for day care services hit high. Some say that children who go to day care centres are more sociable and better in their classes while others argue that children should be raised with families until they become competent to attend school, as BERHANE HAILEMARIAM, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER, reports.
Meron Kidane, 31, a married woman with a full-time private job, has been the client of the Safe Hands Nursery and Kindergarten since 2014, sending her two year old son and four year old daughter to the school. She enrolled both her children in to the day care at the age of a year and five months. She heard about the centre from her friend who sends her daughter to the same place. She then decided to register her kids at the centre after reviewing the overall facilities of the school, such as the number of staff and their care for the children. “I am very impressed by the care they are giving to the children,” said Meron, who became confident in leaving her children at the day care.
Day care, according to the Food, Medicine & Health Care Administration & Control Authority (FMHACA), is a centre for keeping children in suitably designed premises to give care and nourishment to the children with the purpose of teaching them through playing using different materials and methodologies.
The care centre helped Meron’s daughter change her behaviour positively. She claims that her daughter was very shy and timid, but now she has become sociable and does not hesitate to approach people. After all this, Meron is now fully concentrating on her job. This is contrary to her previous experience, where she used to leave her children with the house maids. In those cases, she was nervous and called now and then to check her children’s condition.
The centre, that Meron sends her kids to, Safe Hands, was established in 2008 at Wollo Sefer, behind Ibex Hotel by Nigatua Degefu, a Mother and Child (MCH) Nurse. Nigatua set the centre inside her residence. The school was licensed by the Addis Abeba Education Bureau by the time. As of now, new centres are licensed by Addis Abeba Trade Bureau after the endorsement from the city’s Food, Medicine & Health Care Administration & Control Authority (FMHACA). Only those businesses that fulfil the 60pc requirements of the Authority will be licensed.
Nigatua’s day care accepts children within the age range of three months to three years. This is in line with the FMHACA’s directive, which states day cares have to accept children below the age of four years. The children must also not be in a condition of attending kindergarten or preschool education. The day care centre charges 800 Br to 1,200 Br to children aged three years and six months, respectively. It is operating with nine nannies who have been trained by the owner. Currently, the centre takes care of 28 children, but the number fluctuates throughout the year, according to Mekdes Assefa, who is currently managing the centre.
Nejat Jemal, 35, a mother of three sons and a daughter, is one of the customers of Safe Hands. At the time when she delivered her first son, the centre was not established. But her remaining three children were educated there, including her last six year old son, who will graduate from the Kindergarten this year. She sent her children to the centre at the age of 11 months. She sent her first son to the centre after he was seriously infected by eating spoilt food given by the house maid. When the centre became operational, it was charging 200 Br but the fee rose to 400 Br after two years.
The day cares are not only found in residential villas, but also in condominiums. What differentiates the latter from the former, is the availability of an outdoor playground. The price of these centres also varies between 400 Br and 2,000 Br depending on the age of the kids and the duration of their stay at the centres.
With the increase in number of families like that of Nejat and Meron who prefer to send their kids to these centres, the number of the service providers is also rising throughout the city, according to data from the FMHACA. As of 2016, 290 Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Centres, comprising of 231 community ECCD centres and 59 childcare centres were registered by private businesses and Non-Government Organizations. One of these centres is head to Toe Early Learning Centre & Elementary School, which is located in 24 Kebele, around Amede Lemma Mosque. It was licensed by the Ministry of Education and the Ethiopian Investment Commission as a foreign investment with 60,000 dollars capital in 2011.
The centre, that Meron sends her kids to, Safe Hands, was established in 2008 at Wollo Sefer, behind Ibex Hotel by Nigatua Degefu, a Mother and Child (MCH) Nurse.
The centre accepts kids aged two year and half and above. It has the capacity of serving 80 children at once, with a ratio of one teacher to six kids. Most of the clients of the centre are diplomats and diasporas. The centre lies on a 1,500sqm plot, has indoor and outdoor teaching and playing grounds. Head to Toe is owned by an American, Jane Pyecha, who is a childhood specialist, and the director of curriculum and education, and her Ethiopian husband, Tewodros Abebe, is the manager of the centre. It currently has 10 employees.
In addition to on the job training given by the owners, the caregivers are recruited depending on their educational background and their familiarity with English language, according to the owners. The centre pays a salary that ranges from 2,500 Br to 12,000 Br for the employees in the positions of janitors up to the main teachers. The school charges 300 dollars as registration fee and 5,500 dollars and 7,000 dollars for half-day and full day per semester, respectively. The centre is assisted by the American Embassy that gives training on first aid, child protection and communication for the teachers of the centre. The centre also partnered with a Norwegian run and staffed clinic, Nordic Medical Centre, for emergency cases and medical check ups. It also works with a specialist for Autistic kids.
Lillian Kidane, 37, a health economist by profession, is one of the customers of Head to Toe Early. She has four and six year old sons. One of her sons is autistic, who did not speak and play like his peers. “After joining the centre, he has progressed in his social, speaking and cognitive skills with the help of autism specialist,” said Lillian.”The tuition fee for the boys is not cheap, but is appropriate for the services they are providing,”
The services and other requirements of these centres are inspected by the district’s Food, Medicine & Health Care Administration & Control divisions. But there are also claims from different corners about the quality and competence of the centres. “If we become strict and try to evaluate the centres based on the directive, there would be no day cares at all,” said Tadesse Werdofa, competency validation & control process leader at city’s Food, Medicine & Health Care Administration & Control Bureau. “Hence, we consider only the basic requirements such as hygiene, outdoor playing area, teaching and sleeping classes.”