Nursery school-going children fall between the ages of three and six. This is because at six years, a child is ready to begin his or her primary education.
Like the rest of the children, the rights of nursery-going children are provided for under various bodies like the International Convention of the Rights of the Child 1989, the Constitution, and the Children’s Act.
According to Ms Sylvia Namubiru Mukasa, advocate and director of programme at the Centre for Justice Studies and Innovation, unlike older children, a nursery-going child is of a tender age.
“Their timing for food is different from other age categories. Their learning time is from morning to afternoon,” says Ms Namubiru, adding: “Their mental capability is also still in formation, therefore, their learning should be aided by a very conducive and attractive learning environment with their curriculum guided by early childhood and learning modules.”
The book, Early Childhood in Focus, edited by John Oates, Annette Karmiloff-Smith and Mark H. Johnson, stresses the importance of proper brain development in both pregnancy and early childhood.
“Infants respond to visual and auditory stimulation, especially human faces and voices, and the provision of a rich social environment helps the social brain develop faster. Emphasis is given to their right to play and to enjoy early child hood socialisation,” the authors say.
The early childhood manual also cites other critical measures that are helpful to nursery children’s proper growth as follows; exposure to a rich language environment; a healthy diet and sufficient sleep; and avoidance of neglect and other forms of maltreatment, which usually have a negative impact on them.
Many nursery and daycare centres can be found in various suburbs. But parents need to make sure they take the rights of the children, some of which are listed below, into consideration.
1. A good learning environment
Namubiru explains that in most cases, nursery schools’ learning environment is not conducive and it violates the young ones’ right to health and play.
“Many nursery proprietors get their home-designed structures and turn them into nursery schools. They lack playing grounds, good toilets, playing kits and aides, and children are most of the times confined indoors and denied the right to play,” she observes.
2. Well trained teachers and caretakers
Namubiru also says that many of the nursery and early childhood learning placements lack skilled and experienced nursery teachers and caretakers. The proprietors employ labourers, who are often frustrated by their own social problems and may be harsh and rude to the children.
“Nursery-going children need to be pampered and allowed to socialise in the manner they feel more comfortable.
The care takers have to be free from stress, have to be well provided for and happy, to enable them love and care for these children,” she adds.
Namubiru further explains that the caretakers and teachers need to provide guidance in a loving and empathetic tone so that the children are supported to appreciate school and benefits of learning.
She also says the children have to be corrected in love and with age appropriate correction interventions.
3. Lessons for their age
Another problem in many nursery schools, Namubiru says, is that due to liberalisation of education, there is emerging competition tagged around class performance rather than nursery learning outcomes, and there are situations where a nursery curriculum is raised to levels of primary.
She cites an example of education materials and kits provided for a child in Top Class being similar to what the children in Primary One study.
“In fact in some schools, children starting Primary One, are given an interview of the work of those already in Primary One. This leads the children to accommodate more than their minds can at that time and some start hate learning,” Namubiru says.
4. Time to rest and play
“Related to the above is the insufficient time for them to rest. Many children go to school as early as 5am when their parents are going to work and are picked as late as 6pm in the evening.
This means that their bodies get less time to rest and are always exhausted. This hampers their growth both in mind and body,” Namubiru adds.
“Their right to education entails that it should be commensurate to their evolving capacities.
“Such children should report to school at 8am when their bodies and minds are fully awake and retire home by mid-day. In the afternoon, they should have time to sleep and rest after eating their lunch and wake up in the evening for some playing.”
She also cites the dilemma of having some nursery-going children being separated from their parents or guardians when they are taken to boarding schools and yet the school policy does not allow children below six years to go to boarding school.
This is because at this stage, the child depends on parental love, care, guidance and protection more than what the school can provide.
What needs to be done
As a way forward, Namubiru states that the government should tighten up on policy and regulations of nursery schools because many of them are private.
She also proposes that government sets up demonstration nursery schools and apply the guiding principles of law and rights relating to early childhood development for others to borrow a leaf.
Security at schools
A quick look across the Kampala City’s burgeoning kindergartens shows that security and other safety measures of the children is relatively good.
Many of the kindergartens visited around the city have private security guards manning the entrances, strict rules on who picks the child from school, CCTV cameras, and fire extinguishers, among other measures.
This could explain why there is so far, one criminal matter at City Hall Court in Kampala, where four teachers of Arcon International School, Bukoto branch, have been charged for allegedly neglecting their duty that led to the death of a two and a half-year old child who drowned in the school’s swimming pool.
The deceased, Sunshine Michelle Baraza, allegedly drowned in the school’s swimming pool on her fourth day of reporting to school to start her education journey on September 3, 2012. The matter is ongoing at the court.
Although insurance is becoming a bigger part of life, many of the mainstream insurance companies, don’t have packages to cover kindergarten children. We found out that main hindrance to this insurance cover was due to the fact it’s difficult to know whether the child fell sick from school or from home.
Safety measures that police recommends for nursery schools
According to police spokesperson Fred Enanga, their work as police is to enforce the safety and security measures put in place by the education ministry in schools.
Enanga states that the police enforcement is done alongside the various district inspectors of schools and that the same rules that the primary and secondary schools are required to enforce are the same measures that the nursery schools have.