I REFER to the article “Toddler in abuse case dies” (The Star, Aug 14) in which 14-month toddler, Nurain Damia Mohd Naqudden (pic), succumbed to her injuries after suspected abuse by her babysitter.
Such stories never fail to raise ire and indignation of the people against the authorities.
We have adequate laws and regulations, but the lack of enforcement has overstepped boundaries of common reason.
A casual drive in any housing estate will show that almost every corner residential house is converted into a kindergarten that more often than not, doubles up as a childcare centre offering care services for the child after noon.
It is arguable that the centres are doing a service considering the domestic maid problem that many households are facing. But it is the lack of enforcement that allows unscrupulous operators to operate. It is difficult to weed out the chaff from the wheat when enforcement is severely lacking.
It is not a matter that can be left unattended anymore. Not with such blatant loss of little lives and with such frequency.
Enforcement of childcare centres has to be immediate and an ongoing task. It will be extremely rewarding if further instances of child deaths are minimised, if not ended completely.
Many childcare centres do not have licences, as they do not display signboards. Many of them do not have the outside stairs (the emergency exit). However, parents overlook all these matters as it is the cost and convenience which seem to take precedence.
The colourful paintwork and the buntings that sway merrily in the winds attract people to these home centres operating under the guise of a kindergarten. But as long as they are unlicensed, or unregistered, there will always be the lack of commitment as there is no supervisory visit by the authorities.
To attract more business, their charges are minimal. For a young couple who have just had their first child and living in the city, money is the main criterion. They don’t have a choice. They do not earn much, and being of limited education, it appears to them that babysitting services are the same, and the cheaper one is affordable and within their budget.
There are guidelines provided by legislation under the Child Care Centre Act 1984, which was enacted to provide for the registration, control and inspection of childcare centres in Malaysia.
The basic definition of a childcare centre includes any premises at which four or more children under the age of four years from more than one household are received to be looked after for reward and it shall be registered.
The word “shall” does not allow for a discretion or a choice. It is mandatory that a childcare centre is registered.
The question is how many of the childcare centres are registered? Do we have proper regulation? Are we constantly making checks and ensuring that all unregistered childcare centres are closed and the operators severely admonished?
Does the authorities update the media, perhaps once a month, of childcare centres that were deregistered or found to be illegally operating?
Do we ensure that all childcare centre employees are qualified for the job? Do we have regular courses and impose requirements that child carers too are professionals in their own right, and therefore ensure that they attend regular courses on an annual basis?
Shocking, but the answer to most of these questions is “No”. These are important issues because the people running childcare centres are taking care of the most precious possession of individuals.
It does not matter if the parents are rich or poor; it does not matter if the childcare centre is a five-star facility or no-star facility. The basic care and safety features must be provided at each and every childcare centre.
Regular checks by local government officers at the various housing estates will reveal that many so-called kindergartens double up as childcare centres, providing after-hours care for the toddlers.
We do not need more laws. We do not need more committees to look into the issues. We do not need more funds to combat this disease. All that we need is enforcement.
If the enforcers do their job seriously, and with dedication, the battle is won. How many more children have to die before the authorities take notice?
We all know that all the heat and ruckus will last for a week, perhaps a month, then all is forgotten. And it is back again to normal business, as if the tragedy never happened. Are we just going to stand by and is Nurain just going to be a forgotten statistic?
Nurain’s parents will never get her back, but we can prevent another parent having to go through the same trauma?
How can we help? Strict enforcement is the solution. We need enforcement to be done regularly.
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