PETALING JAYA: Early childhood educators are urging the government to give clearer guidelines for kindergartens, daycare centres, nurseries and the like operating in states under Phases One and Two of the National Recovery Plan (NRP).
With full vaccination of employees now being a requirement for these centres to operate, educators are questioning whether those that have already opened previously for children of frontliners must now close again if their staff are not fully immunised against Covid-19.
Some of these centres had been opened for months when the government allowed them to do so for the sake of frontline workers who needed someone to keep any eye on their children. Full vaccination of the centres’ employees was not a requirement then.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that kindergartens, daycares, nurseries and child development centres would be allowed to open in Phase One and Two states.
He also said the operators and workers must be fully vaccinated before resuming operations.
Association of Registered Childcare Providers Malaysia president Anisa Ahmad said clearer standard operating procedures (SOP) are needed.
“Some centres have already opened for months, caring for children of frontliners.
“However, not all the childcare providers are fully vaccinated. What will happen to these centres now?” she said.
Anisa said the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry had previously announced that vaccination would be expedited for early childhood educators but to date, they have yet to be called to get their jabs.
They have also registered for vaccination via MySejahtera, she said.
“Some managed to get it (a vaccine appointment) but some didn’t. We really hope that vaccination can be expedited for us,” she said.
With operating costs being higher now due to additional safety measures such as having to hire professionals to disinfect the premises weekly, coupled with cash flow problems due to the low number of children enrolled, Anisa said she hopes that the situation would improve soon.
Daycare centre operator Zarina Ismail said while they welcomed the move, detailed plans should be rolled out by the government before setting the date for reopening.
“Nonetheless, we want to serve parents out there who are back to work and support them with our services,” she said.
Zarina, who runs Taska Sara Ceria, said preparations were ongoing to reopen her daycare centre.
Most of her staff are fully vaccinated but she will wait for 14 days after the last staffer receives the second dose before reopening.
She urged the authorities to look into the preparation of the centres as operators did not wish to be ill-prepared or put anyone at risk.
For instance, she said guidelines on ventilation and air circulation were needed.
“I would also suggest that Phase Three would be the best time to reopen with more emphasis on the preparations that need to be done,” she added.
For young mothers like Azlina Mohd Rafi, she is relieved that daycare centres are available again as she will be returning to work in November.
Azlina, 29, is currently on three months’ maternity leave after giving birth to her third child.
“It’s also a relief that all daycare operators and staff involved have to be fully vaccinated, but I do hope they will still follow the SOP,” she said.