ECDCs give working mothers a sigh of relief

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Kids playing during break time at Aspire Rwanda Foundation. Photos by S. Ngendahimana

A few weeks ago, a story about a nanny who set out to murder two toddlers made headlines.

On the fateful day, Ernestine Munezero, the maid in question, a resident of Kamonyi District, went to Nyabarongo River where she tried to drown herself and the kids for reasons only known to her. Luckily, the children were saved by residents who pulled them out of the raving waters.

Such incidents are what every mother dreads when they leave their children under the care of maids. Many working mothers have no choice but to leave their children in the hands of housemaids.

However, the rise of Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDCs) is giving working mothers some hope and many are embracing the ECDCs. Lulu Karangwa, the founder of Childcare at the Workplace Organisation, says children left behind with maids go through a lot and at the same time, it affects mothers who barely concentrate at work as they worry about the kids they left behind.

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Nursery kids working on an assignment at Aspire Rwanda Foundation in Gisozi. 

“There have been many cases of maids mistreating children; however, mothers should relax now that these centres are in place. Our children will be in safe hands and I am sure this will be of benefit to the society in general,” she says.

Mathilde Kayitesi, the Executive Secretary of Umuhuza, a non-government organisation that promotes early childhood development, says that leaving children behind with maids leaves mothers unsettled.

Children are prone to any kind of abuse and negative influence, which can be life threatening, Kayitesi explains.

“Kids who are left alone with maids we barely know can have a negative impact because you never know the character they possess. Besides, the maids cannot give them the required care. With these centres in place, children are safe from such and are assured of good care,” Kayitesi says.

Mothers on the other side are able to be productive because they know it is well with their children.

“Before the introduction of these centres, mothers obviously had difficulty going on with their duties but this is different now, they work knowing that their kids are safe,” she adds.

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ECDCs provide a conducive environment where the kids can play and be taught different activities like reading and writing.

Kayitesi says that these centres should be spread all over the country for more parents to have access to them.

“To achieve more of this it will require us to think beyond, such that all working mothers have ease in accessing these centres,” Kayitesi says.

ECDCs are more than ‘day care’

Karangwa points out that access to adequate child care, more so in urban areas, has been a challenge particularly for many low-income parents.

Some women (for example market vendors) opt to go with their kids to work, but this is still not the best option, taking into consideration the environment which isn’t in any way favourable to the kids, Karangwa says.

“Many women, especially low-income mothers, are obliged to carry their infants to the workplace and expose them to an unhealthy environment. Also, carrying these little ones affects the productivity of the mothers who constantly have to worry about the wellbeing of the children,” Karangwa adds.

“These centres not only provide care for the children, but also a conducive environment where they can play and be taught different activities like reading and writing. Mothers too can get time to bond with their kids because even those who breastfeed are well catered for,” Karangwa explains.

Console Mukamana, the founder of Kimiramba Day Care Centre in Ngororero District, believes that kids benefit from this initiative way more than parents do.

“Mothers too have enormous benefits, but children who are the most important, benefit a lot. Besides receiving ample care from caregivers, they attain early childhood skills which help them grow into responsible adults.

“I take care of children of all ages, and ever since I developed this centre, mothers have found peace knowing that as they work for survival, their children are safe with me.

“Kids are in a safe environment, we make for them toys using local materials, this way, their capacity is built and strengthened. I so far attend to 56 kids but depending on the benefits I have seen from this, I will continue developing this centre as long as I can, parents in our area are in awe and really appreciate this,” Mukamana adds.

Kayitesi supports Mukamana’s view, pointing out that research shows that the first three years of a person’s life strongly shape who they will be.

“We want to build the future of Rwanda through grooming children into responsible citizens; this is why we are doing our best to support this programme of training and nurturing kids when they are still young,” Kayitesi says.

“What a child will be is what he or she sees, this is why providing them with a decent environment matters. In the centres, kids are also taught to be confident and trained to be independent and to chart their own way in life instead of forcing them to be who we want them to be.

The centres not only train children, but the mothers too.

“Parents are imparted with general knowledge on how a child grows and what the child needs to grow up properly,” Kayitesi adds.

Kayitesi hopes for more centres to come up because their benefits are yet to bring a long lasting impact to society.

Mothers share their views

Sarah Uwamahoro, a mother of two boys, applauds the initiative saying that the horrific tales of maids will soon be history.

“As a hairdresser, it wasn’t easy for me leaving behind my nine-month-old baby. I always leave home early morning and go back late in the evening. It was really hard but this is going to change thanks to this development,” she says.

Justine Mutoni calls these centres ‘heaven sent’ saying that prayers of the working mum have been answered.

donah.mbabazi@newtimes.co.rw