When you drop off your toddler at a nursery school or daycare centre every morning, there is no doubt that every fibre of your being hopes that your child will be safe. You want to be reassured time and again that the caretakers are doing their best to fill the gap your absence leaves in your child’s life for the next four to 10 hours, depending on how long the child stays at the centre.
But what is it like for the child caretakers? Evas Kobusinge is one woman doing such a job. She says she couldn’t be happier being where she is and doing this kind of job. Her face lights up as she narrates what her day is like with the children.
“It’s so interesting to work with these children,” Kobusinge smiles as she recounts her daily interactions with the children she looks after, the things they say, how they struggle to learn how to talk, eat, and insist on wearing their shoes, even when they know they need help.
The mother of two leaves her home every day at about 6am so that she arrives early enough to receive the children. At the International Pre-school and Daycare centre in Kamwokya where she works, children are admitted from zero to six years of age.
“Every day presents its own challenges. There are those who are now used to the school routine and this category is easy to deal with. But there are those who cling onto their parents and don’t want to let go, so we have to find a way of making them want to stay in school. We have to be their mothers and create a homely environment for them,” Kobusinge says, adding that they always let them know their parents will pick them up after work and their stay at the school is temporary.
“The moment you make them feel loved, they realise that you care for them and start treating you like a mother,” she adds. “We have a time table we follow but most times we are flexible enough to switch according to the children’s interests,” she says.
In many instances when class is in session, it gets hilarious.
“There are times when I am teaching, for example pre-math, and ask them, ‘What’s the date today?’ Someone will put up their hands looking eager to give you the answer and then they say something like: ‘My mother is very nice,’ or ‘Daddy bought me a new toy.’ It’s never a dull moment,” Kobusinge says of the sessions.
Kobusinge says they train the children to be God-fearing and responsible so they do a bit of singing and dancing together. Thereafter, the children are grouped according to age.
“We have what we call a baby centre where we have children from zero years to 20 months. This is only for those who need a lot of care and attention,” she adds. The older ones are put in separate sections.
The children then get in class but the learning is not structured, because as Kobusinge says, sometimes the children’s moods and needs dictate what should be taught, because if adults dictate, they easily get bored and they are honest enough to let you know. To get the children’s attention, one has to be flexible and willing to work with them at their level. One of the challenges that comes with looking after the children, Kobusinge says, is the fact that they all come from different backgrounds and have different characters.
“All these children have a way they were brought up so you can’t have all of them behave in a particular way you would like them to. However, we do try as much as we can to instill discipline in them,” she tells me.
How to deal with tough times
There are also scary and worrisome moments she has gone through with some children.
As she says, whenever and wherever you work with children, scary things are bound to happen. She cites such things as illnesses that can lead to convulsions, or a child getting an allergic reaction because he or she ate something they shouldn’t have.
She recalls a particular incident. “There was this child who was allergic to all meat products. The parents had notified us that the child had an allergy, and that the school should not give him lunch. They would pack him food from home.”
Being a big school, Kobusinge says the person who was in the lunch room that day had not been notified of the child’s condition. So the child sneaked in and was served. Panic ensued shortly after. “When you are a supervisor, such special cases are always on your mind, and we realised immediately that there was a problem. It gave us a fright; we were scared, but it was an emergency so we had to act very fast and save his life,” she reminisces.
Nothing happened to the child immediately, but Kobusinge said the parents had instructed them earlier on what to do and the doctor’s report they had, also advised them on what to do in case of such an emergency. The three year-old was then rushed to hospital, and thankfully, all turned out well. Although there are tough moments, there are also some wonderful ones.
Kobusingye says children are very highly intuitive beings. They can do and say things that are simply amazing or completely surprising. She muses upon a recent incident at her workplace.
“I am a mother of two, so one day one of my children was sick and I could not come to work early enough, but one of the children in school realised I was missing and kept reminding my colleagues that I had not yet arrived.
“When I finally got to work, he ran to me and said: ‘Ooh Teacher Evas, all along I have been waiting for you. I have kept a hug for you.’ Hearing such nice words from a two-year-old filled me with so much warmth,” she recalls. She then explained to him that her child was sick and he showed such genuine concern and afterwards said, “I am so sorry, but I will tell my mummy to take you to the other hospital where I was taken when I fell sick.” Kobusinge says such kindness from any child is priceless.
In her line of work, Kobusingye has also had to find ways of pacifying parents who have been upset by one thing or the other. The child caretaker says every parent has very high expectations of how their child should be looked after and taught. However, sometimes the demands are unrealistic.