How caring are day-care centres?

Three -year- old allegedly assaulted at a centre in Gampaha

Just three years and two months old and allegedly beaten blue, pinched sore and mentally battered. This was the plight of a slip of a toddler whom her parents entrusted to a montessori-cum-day care in Gampaha.

Did we pay Rs. 1,000 to the montessori and Rs. 3,000 to the day-care to treat our daughter like this, lamented the traumatized father of the child while sources at the Gampaha Hospital disclosed to the Sunday Times that the child had “six tram-line contusions which usually appear after an assault with a stick”.

The injuries sustained by the child

It was on January 10, this year that the little girl’s parents, as they are both working, admitted her not only to the montessori but decided to keep her at the day-care on the premises run by the same owner till about 3 in the afternoon. “This is a known place in Gampaha,” the father said, explaining that there were about 25 children at the nursery being looked after by three teachers and about 10 children at the day-care centre under the care of one teacher.

As the days went by, the child on and off refused to go, but assuming that the reluctance on her part was for the new routine, they took her each day, it is learnt. On March 11, the child had grimaced in pain when they attempted to wash her face and they had allegedly found a deep finger-nail mark on her left ear. Last Monday, March 14, as the little one’s mother was working the night shift, the father washed her, dressed her and handed her over to the teachers in the morning at around 7.45, informing them that her grandmother would pick her up at 3 p.m.

It was when her Achchi picked her up that she allegedly noticed blue marks on both the upper arms of the child, the father said, adding that she immediately called his wife, who in turn called him to check whether the child had fallen at home. He had assured her that nothing of the sort happened and decided to go home with his wife and take the child to a private doctor close by.

On the advice of the doctor, as it was Monday night by that time, he and his mother-in-law had taken the child to the Gampaha Hospital the next morning, where after a medical examination the child had been admitted to hospital. The child had then been taken to the Judicial Medical Officer, after which the father had made a complaint to the Gampaha Police.

Investigations into the incident will be launched soon after the local government elections, with the day-care centre authorities being called to give a statement, a police source said when contacted by the Sunday Times.

No regulations governing centres

Although day-care centres are expected to seek registration, it is not mandatory and there are no regulations governing them as yet, said Provincial Commissioner of Probation and Child Care, Western Province, G.P.D. Somaratne.

He, however, stressed that the police can act under the normal laws of the land and suggested that the parents lodge a complaint with the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) as this institution has a Police Unit which can raid the day-care centre immediately.

Meanwhile having seen news reports of the alleged assault on the child in Gampaha, the Director of the Children’s Secretariat, Yamuna Perera, has called for an immediate report from the Early Childhood Development Assistant attached to the Divisional Secretariat of the area, the Sunday Times learns.

Both montessoris or pre-schools and day-care centres come under the relevant Provincial Council (PC). Montessoris have to seek mandatory PC registration and are supervised by the Provincial Education Department while day-care centres should register with the Provincial Probation and Child Care Department, Mrs. Perera pointed out.

Although at present there is only an Early Childhood Care and Development Policy, an ECCD Act is being drafted, assured the Director, adding that montessoris and day-care centres will be well regulated then.

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