Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 50, Tuesday January 13, 2008


day-care centres and their dilemma

Make sure. . .
Trusting anyone with caring for your child is indeed a major decision that should be given ample thought and not be taken impromptu. Choosing the right daycare centre to entrust with your child can involve several questions:
What is their policy regarding open-door parent visits? What is their policy on caring for sick children? How are children monitored on the playground?
Do they welcome parents during their excursion activities? Are they open during weekends?
Do they emphasize on basic knowledge like toilet training and hand washing?

Some of my earliest memories are those of sunny mornings spent in the front yard of my grandfather's patriarchal home, drawing meaningless pictures to impress my grandmother, who would be sitting nearby on a stool and keeping a close watch on me and my brother. While my mother remained tension-free at work, my grandmother gladly took up the responsibility of looking after us toddlers and making sure we were getting all the attention we needed. No day-care centres were available in Bangladesh back then, and nobody seemed to feel the need for one. The norm was to leave the children in the care of grandparents or other members of the extended family, while the parents were out at work.

Recent times have seen the mutation of joint families into nuclear ones living significant distances away from the members of the extended family. In addition, competitiveness is driving more and more women to workplaces, which leaves the problem of leaving nobody at home to look after children who haven't started school. Entrepreneurs were quick to sense this gap and Dhaka sprawled with day-care centres, planned to cater exactly to needs of busy parents who want to leave their children in reliable care so that they can work tension free.

“The option of a day-care centre has worked out pretty well for me,” says Sanjana Ahmed, executive in a local bank and mother of two-year old Sarah. “Most of my relatives, including my parents, live in Khulna, so I don't have the option of leaving Sarah with someone I can completely rely on. I am not too keen on leaving my child in the care of household help since none of them have shown any dexterity in handling a child this young!”

Sanjana Ahmed voices the concerns of many working mothers who are finding it hard to juggle work, household chores, social lives and baby care.

Worries of whether the little one has been fed on time or has taken a bath or has settled in for the much-needed afternoon nap constantly nag their minds and keep them from concentrating fully at work. Many working mothers have now found an easy way to put their worries to rest.

Le Petit Care is just one of the several day-care centres that have opened up branches in our very own Dhaka city. The walls of cornflower blue will give you a warm welcome as soon as you enter Le Petit Care in Gulshan. The cheerful pictures pinned to the board, drawn with naïve hands will instantly bring a smile to your face and fill your heart with a warm glow. The echoes of laughter ringing through the passage will lead you to the playroom in the centre of the flat.

The playroom with the gigantic jigsaw puzzle for a floor mat will instantly entice the child in you or the child with you to sprawl on the floor and enjoy some moments playing with the colourful abacus, or 'Play-doh', or take a ride in the small seesaw. The people here definitely seem to know how to brighten the days of their tiny clientele.

“A day-care centre is completely different from a pre-school or kindergarten,” says Amina Yasmin, CEO of Le Petit Care. “Here, we are not only teaching the children the educational basics, but we are also responsible for setting a lifestyle for them, one that will help their mental and physical development in the years to come.”

Amina and her team at her Le Petit Care, which comprises of specialists in Child Development and Nutrition, emphasize on developing some of the basic social skills of the children, so that when they start school, they don't find it too hard to fit in with their classmates.

“Most of the parents appreciate the fact that while the children are with us from morning till evening, they are not only being taken care of in a homely atmosphere, but their mental, physical and social development is also being initiated through various activities specially designed for children of young ages.”

One of the main concerns of working parents is the probability of children sustaining injuries or allergies during their rambunctious games and activities. Le Petit Care claims to have all their staff trained in first aid, so that any minor wounds and injuries can be instantly tended to.

Some organizations, like BRAC and Grameenphone have also recognised the dilemma of working mothers and have come one step forward to ease their worries by arranging day-care centres within the organization's premises.

The childcare centre at BRAC Centre in Mohakhali is responsible for looking after the infants and toddlers of the Brac employees. A visit to this centre will clarify why the parents are comfortable keeping their children in the custody of this centre while they are busy working.

The little ones are engaged in fun and educational activities throughout the day, along with an afternoon nap, so that when it is time for them to head back home, they are in a cheery mood and the parents also get their much-deserved rest. Parents are allowed to visit their children thrice a day and can call the centre anytime to check in on their tots.

Since the concept of day-care centres is still quite alien to our culture, many parents still eye it with suspicion.

“We are yet to receive satisfactory response to the day-care centre trend, since most parents still don't want to trust these centres enough to leave their children in their care all day,” says Luna of Angel World in Lalmatia.

While it is true that most people in our country are not very familiar with the concept of day-care centres, and have still not developed the confidence in them, independent studies have actually suggested that children in high quality childcare centres score higher on tests of language, memory and other skills than do children of stay-at-home mothers or children in lower-quality day care.

It is absolutely essential that parents assess the quality of service provided at the day-care centres and the kind of developmental activities they offer before trusting their children in their care. Hygiene standards and dexterity in handling children's tantrums and temperaments are important factors to consider.

Day-care centres in our country are still seen as the last resort, when working parents have absolutely no other option available. But with the emergence of more and more nuclear families, and with the busy-ness of city life seeping into each and every aspect of our lives, it won't be long before the popularity of the day-care centres shift to top gear. However, how long it takes for this trend to pick up pace is still the question of the day.

By Wasia Mehnaz Minna
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Special thanks to Le Petit Care for arranging the photo shoot

Contacts: Le Petite Care, H#18, Apt E3, Road # 66, Gulshan-2 # 01713033558
Angles' World, 6/10, Block E, Lalmatia, # 01819214812


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