Our Children, Our Responsibility

May 18 , 2024
By Eden Sahle

After two blissful years of raising their son, my neighbours began a daycare search deciding that it was time to return to work. Their ideal setting was a facility with cameras accessible to parents, offering a comforting glimpse into their child's day. Unfortunately, such transparency seemed nonexistent. Settling for a centre near the grandparents' house for emergencies, they embarked on a visit only to be met with a scene that shattered their trust and left them forever scarred.

A usual knock on the open gate turned into a horrifying revelation. Minutes ticked by with no response, an unsettling silence broken only by their growing unease. Deciding to peek inside, they were met with a sight that defied comprehension. An elderly staff member was hitting the head of a one-year-old. The child, a regular at the daycare for a few months, had been crying, coughing, and vomiting incessantly. But, it fell on deaf ears, met only with further blows from the supposed caregiver.

Other staff members stood by as silent witnesses. Although they were choking with disbelief and outrage, my neighbours mustered their courage demanding the woman stop. The primal urge to protect the defenceless child overwhelmed the father. He lunged forward, only to be restrained by the other staff members, a tangled mass of limbs and desperate pleas. This intervention seemed to snap the lady out of her trance, realising that there was an audience.

With a mix of anger and relief, my neighbours quickly scooped up the sobbing child. While comforting him,  they learned the horrific assault stemmed from a diaper that needed change – a basic need twisted into a cruel punishment. Leaving the child in the hands of these individuals was unthinkable. They demanded the owner and the child's parents be brought in immediately.

The wait stretched into hours. As they sat amidst the unsettling silence, their attention turned to the other children ranging from six months to two years old. None displayed a hint of joy. The room was filled with a cacophony of cries, devoid of playful laughter or the warmth of interaction. The staff resorted to shoving food into the mouths of these distressed infants while the gagging reflex was met with harsh words.

Gratitude for their fortuitous arrival washed over my neighbours. Unknowingly, they might have become unwitting guardians, rescuing their own son from a similar fate.

When the owner finally arrived, her initial reaction was a predictable denial. Any accusations of wrongdoing were met with feigned ignorance and promises of improvement. Shockingly, she pleaded with them not to inform the child's father, who seemingly assumed the sole responsibility of picking up and dropping off his son.

Refusing to be complicit in this cover-up, my neighbours insisted the father be brought in. They watched as the man arrived and listened to the harrowing account of his son's abuse, tears streamed down his face. He was the sole parent to his son, leaving the use of daycare as the only option to be able to provide financially. The man's pain spoke volumes, and they did not want to add to his already overflowing heartbreak by asking more questions. They watched silently as he rushed his son to the hospital, fearing internal injuries from the repeated blows.

My neighbours' determination finally yielded results. They pressured the owner to inform all parents whose children were enrolled at the daycare. The revelation explained the recent inconsolable crying spells many parents had observed in their own children. It brought the glaring inadequacies within the childcare system. They opted to leave their son's care to his grandparents.

As a parent myself, this shattered my long-held belief in the automatic respect accorded to elders. We cannot simply rely on assumptions or outward appearances. A thorough investigation, talking to current and past experiences of parents, and surprise visits become paramount in ensuring our children's safety.

I started doing random research on child daycare centres on the potential benefits of well-managed facilities. The results suggest these environments can accelerate cognitive development, enhance language skills, and foster social interaction. However, concerns remain. Opponents point to the increased risk of infections, the potential for stress due to parental separation at a young age, and the possibility of behavioural issues later in life.

My own brother's experience offered a contrasting perspective. His son, enrolled in daycare since the age of six months, did suffer from frequent infections. However, the daycare also nurtured his social skills and vocabulary, making the transition to kindergarten a smooth one. Crucially, my brother and his wife exercised meticulous due diligence. They interviewed parents, researched the facility's reputation, and conducted multiple visits before entrusting their son to their care.

There should be a hotline to report such abuses. Parents must demand background checks and mandatory training programs for daycare staff while surprise inspections by qualified authorities should be a regular occurrence. At the same time, facilities must implement open-door policies, allowing parents unannounced visits to observe their children's environment and interactions with staff.

There is no denying the irreplaceable role parents play in a child's life. The love, affection, and guidance offered by a parent form the bedrock of a child's emotional and social development. However, for many families, daycare has become a necessity. Work schedules, financial constraints, or single parenthood can make daycare the only viable option. The duty falls on parents to become proactive advocates for their children's well-being.

PUBLISHED ON May 18,2024 [ VOL 25 , NO 1255]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at edensah2000@gmail.com.

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