By Karen Bong
KUCHNG, May 12: Childcare centres and kindergartens in Sarawak are not allowed to operate until further notice is issued at the end of the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) which has been extended until June 9.
Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah, in announcing this today, urged employers to allow flexible work arrangements for working parents.
“Like Prime Minister (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) advised, parents could probably take turns to work from home so they can take turns to take care of their children during this period,” she told a press conference here today.
As people returned to work today with most economic sectors resuming operations and activities, Fatimah expressed concern as working parents were asking for the reopening of childcare centres and kindergartens so that they can place their children there while at work.
“I want to remind everyone that childcare centres and kindergartens are still not allowed to be opened,” she said.
However, she urged operators of childcare centres and kindergartens to take this time to get the crucial and necessary done according to social distancing rules and standard operating procedures (SOP) which have been created to prepare for reopening.
“My ministry has created the SOP for early childhood learning institutions as guidelines for operators, parents and staff of childcare centres and kindergartens to ensure the safety of children.
“The SOP has been forwarded to the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) for coordination. We hope this will ease parents’ worries about the safety, health and wellbeing of their children when childcare centres and kindergartens start to operate,” she added.
Fatimah suggested nurseries and kindergartens with more than 40 children to reduce their daily capacity to 50 per cent, such as dividing children into two or more groups and having them attend classes on alternate or scheduled days.
The instructions in the SOP include briefings on maintaining social distancing, educating children on environmental and self-care practices, no group activities, disinfection of all toys and learning materials before and after use, and no sharing of toys and teaching materials.
“So the operators need to think and discuss about this. This is part of their preparations and we want them to plan it out now so that everything can run smoothly according to the rules and guidelines when they reopen later.
“The planning also needs to be agreed to between the operator and parents,” she emphasised.
Meanwhile, to reduce the burden of operators during this unprecedented times, Fatimah pointed out that state government has approved the disbursement of a special annual grant of RM5,000 for each registered early childhood learning institution in Sarawak.
“Since 2019, the grant involving about RM16 million has been disbursed to all registered institutions in Sarawak for the purpose of ensuring a balanced diet, fun learning, educators and carers’ professional development, and programmes for parents.
“So now that the state government has released the grant, it can be used for two additional purposes which is to help in paying rental of premises, or salaries of teachers and staff especially in private (businesses),” she said.
Fatimah revealed that about 50 per cent of such institutions registered with the government have applied for the grant with some already receiving the funds even before the MCO started.
“So those who haven’t applied may do so but put forth a proposal on how the grant will be used. Only registered childcare centres and kindergartens are eligible,” she added. — DayakDaily