As the economic noose continues to tighten around our necks, it is increasingly becoming apparent that parents cannot spend as much time with their children as they would have liked. With househelps running away without notice as others maim and kill innocent children, daycare centres within the estates have played a key role of ensuring that our children have someone to look after them during the day and in some few instances at night.
Despite all this, it is emerging that the children at the daycare centres do not get proper nutrition, thus affecting their health and development and leading to diseases and stunted growth.
In a Baseline Survey of Kidogo Spokes Program run by Kidogo, a social enterprise that supports caregivers in informal settlements by capacity building them on ECD and entrepreneurship skills, it was revealed that children in informal settlements have lower chances of surviving and thriving, reaching their developmental potential if intervention s are not put in place to mitigate the situation as it is.
According to Ms. Damaris Nelima, the Senior Programme Officer –Research, the Africa Early Childhood Network, daycares are increasing at an alarming speed and despite this, the government is not doing much to regulate them.
Nelima was speaking at the AfECN Early Childhood Development conference recently held at Safari Park Nairobi. They also have to contend with challenges such as limited training of personnel and having to operate with constrained resources. On average a child is required between Ksh. 50 and Ksh. 200, which goes to pay the personnel at the centre. Some centres charge according to the food they offer while others ask parents to bring along food for the child.
The Baseline survey was done in Kawangare and Kibera, which are the biggest informal settlements in Kenya, with Kibera being home to 50000 children. The survey managed to get 685 children in 35 daycare centres and analyse a total of 419 children. From the 419, there were 188 females against 231 males and most of them had been admitted to the daycare centres for about 6 months.
Among the revelations was the fact that 64 per cent of the centres cooked food for the children while the others brought food from home. The common meals were rice, potatoes and beans at 35 per cent while ugali and sukuma wiki was at 30 per cent. Out of the under-five- year–olds who were at the centres, 18 per cent of them were stunting. It was also revealed that most daycare centres have never had a nutritional assessment conducted on them.
Lack of proper nutrition for children under five years old is not just a concern in Kenya as the G20 Initiative for Early Childhood Development is concerned as well. In a recent statement, they said,
“We stress the importance of good nutrition early in a child’s life, and even before birth through improved nutrition of women prior to and during pregnancy, which ensures the foundation for children’s brain and body development. We also emphasize the importance of breastfeeding as an essential means of ensuring food security and nutrition for infants. We remain concerned that due to malnutrition, 51 million children under 5 years of age are wasted, and 151 million are stunted, while 38 million are overweight or obese. As stated in the “G20 Initiative for Rural Youth Employment”, we reiterate that “a diversified, balanced and healthy diet at all stages of life, particularly during the 1,000 day window from pregnancy to age two, has a lifelong positive impact on the child’s growth and ability to learn and to lead [healthy and] economically productive lives.”
In light of what is happening at daycare centres and it is important that the government should come in and introduce some kind of regulation for the daycare centres so as to ensure that set rules regarding nutrition, sanitation and personnel are followed for the good of the children.
Another recommendation by Ms. Nelima is that there should be capacity building as far as the personnel are concerned. If they learn on proper nutrition they might teach the parents on the various types of diets as well and this will mean a healthier diet for the children.
Apart from the capacity building as far as nutrition is concerned, there should also be proper registration and admission of children. Proper registration will play a huge role in ensuring that there is proper planning as far as the needs of the children are concerned. The owners of the daycare centres should also be equipped with entrepreneurial skills that will help them in better running of the establishments.