In a bid to encourage educated and career-oriented women to continue to work even when they have little children to look after, the Punjab Women Development Department (PWDD) recently launched a project worth Rs200 million to set up daycare centres in different institutions. The centres admit kids no older than three years and no younger than six months. In this connection, the Punjab Daycare Fund (PDCF) has been established.
Talking to TNS, Assistant Director, PDCF, Rabia Yaseen spoke of having received a grant money of Rs100 million for the purpose. “The department shall set up 60 daycare centres in Punjab, including 20 in Lahore,” she revealed.
“The centres at Lady Willingdon Hospital and Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) have been opened already and work on the rest of the centres will start soon.”
Rabia said that any private or government organisation could build a daycare centre with the financial support of the PDCF, provided certain criteria are met. The PDCF offers 70 per cent of grant money to an organisation wishing to set up a daycare centre in its premises. The grant is to be continued for one year. The idea is to empower the working women, both financially and socially.
The concept of daycare centres has come to Pakistan from the developed western world where usually both the parents are working. Institutions, both private and public, admit children of such couples only. The method is simple: day-long guardianship while the parents are away (at work). Such arrangements are meant to encourage parents to get on with their careers and contribute to economy.
The countries with social welfare system even provide rebate in subsidies for working couples.
Usually, the children aged 6 and below are sent to daycare centres where their guardians look after their needs such as food and sleep, and also afford them different learning activities.
While such arrangements are considered functional, some people still opt not to send their children to these centres, believing the presence of parents around their children has no substitute.
Rabia Yaseen said that the standards for setting up daycare centres in public and private sectors had been clearly laid out (see Box).
About the training of the daycare staff, Yaseen said the success of the daycare centres could be ensured by a supply of quality human resources. She also claimed that the Punjab government had planned to train women as daycare workers.
“If your kids are with you at your workplace, you are relaxed and this enhances your performance,” said a nurse at the Lady Willingdon Hospital whose infant had been enrolled at the freshly-built daycare centre inside the facility.
Lady Willingdon Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Zafar Yusaf said that the centre had the capacity for 25 kids aged between six months to five years.
“Children have been admitted at the centre on the first-come-first-served basis,” he added. “The centre is becoming very popular among women employees and all of the 25 seats have been filled.”
Trained staff including a manager, a teacher, three supervisors, a maid and a security guard has been appointed at the centre. Additionally, CCTV cameras have been installed for security purposes, the MS said.
About the idea of setting up daycare centres in public sector, the Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) DayCare Centre Patron Dr Sara Shahid said the varsity was home to two such centres, one of which had been built by LCWU on its own. The second was established by the Punjab Women Development Department.
“As per instructions by the LCWU VC Dr Sabiha Mansoor, all basic facilities have being provided to the kids [at the centres],” she said.
Daycare centres at public institutions are a great service to working mothers, particularly those who fall in low-income bracket and cannot afford the huge prices for the centres run by private organisations.