The number of crèches in Madurai is inadequate

In an airy and spacious room where sunlight streams in, a group of children aged not more than 3 years are clambering up a plastic slide on one corner of the room. Building blocks and toys are strewn all over the floor and another group of small children are immersed playing with them. Helpers carrying babies navigate around the room keeping a watchful eye on these children.

For children of working mothers, day-care centres and crèches are where they spend the majority of their time. Crèches might be a boon to the working women, but in Madurai their numbers are inadequate. Only a few educational institutions, apartments and government institutions have a fully functioning day care centres.

“Mothers drop off their children here at as early as 8 30 a.m. and come back for them at 5 p.m.,” says Vijayapandi G, a helper at the crèche at the Lady Doak College premises.

Started originally to enable the teaching and non-teaching staff of the college to leave their children during the day, the crèche which was started by the alumnae association of the college, now also takes in children whose parents do not work in the college.

“We have nearly a dozen helpers in the crèche. Teachers working in other institutions, government and private sector employees from nearby localities are keen on leaving their children at the crèche here. We have at present about 40 children,” says C. Praveena, a faculty from the department of commerce, who is one of the members of the crèche’s managing committee. The college is one of the few educational institutions having a day care centre on its premises.

Another issue with the well equipped and managed day care centres that charge nominal fees is that they take in only a limited number of children.

As far as governmental institutions in the city are concerned, the Income Tax office at Bibikulam has a crèche on its premises for the women employees of the office as well as the surrounding Posts and Telecom offices.

“We only charge 700 rupees a month which is very nominal if you look at the facilities we have” says Jayakantham.B, who manages the crèche.

“There are two air-conditioners, a fully functional kitchen, beds and toys. We take in 15 children at a time and there are three helpers”, she adds, showing the room plastered with charts depicting alphabets, rhymes and pictures.

“Decent private daycare centres are rare in the city. Many pre-schools and play schools across the city charge high rates that we are not able to afford most of the time” says K. Mahalakshmi, a bank employee from Anna Nagar.

S. Sri Latha, a faculty of the commerce department in Lady Doak College, says that crèches are service oriented and are not profitable owing to which there are not many that are functioning.

“The crèches attached to organizations and institutions are essential, especially in educational institutions for the benefit of women faculty, who return from their three- month maternity leave” she adds.

An assistant professor from the department of computer science in Thiagarajar College of Engineering, D. Tamilselvi says that for several of her colleagues, finding a crèche has been a big concern.

“Some of them travel considerable distance every day to leave their children at the crèches in apartment complexes. A possible solution for this issue common in most organisations would be to take a survey and set up a crèche in the organisation if the number of young mothers is more than ten”, she suggests.

For those who depend on maids or caretakers and leave their children under their care for long hours, there are added concerns.

Kanaka. M, a helper at a private daycare centre in the city, vouches for the need for crèches over leaving the children under the care of maids due to the conducive atmosphere it offers.

“If the children are taken care by the elders in the family it is good. But with an increase in nuclear families, the maids leave the children unattended in front of the television most of the time. We have had specific instances where children have had speech problems due to this and become detached to the outside world” she says, asserting the need for more such established and low-cost centres for the benefit of working mothers in the city.

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