Techie speak Life & Style

Care closer to home

A view of Child Care Hub in Technopark   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Cerin Joy and her husband, Arun Biji Mathew, who work with two different MNCs in Technopark have two kids — five-year-old Anna Mathew and two-year-old Mathew Kulangara. While Anna lives with her parents in the city and is taken care of by a maid after her school hours, Mathew is growing up with his paternal grandparents in Pathanamthitta. “Every other weekend we travel to meet our son. It is heartbreaking to be away from him. We also feel bad that we are not at home when our daughter comes home. She also misses her brother. But that’s the best arrangement we could come up with the lack of enough daycare and after-school facilities inside Technopark,” says Cerin.

She echoes the sentiment of many other parents who are working in the IT hub and don’t have the luxury of family support, mostly grandparents, or a help to take care of their children. The Maternity Benefit Act that came into effect last year had made it mandatory for employers with 50 or more employees to provide creche facility, either separately or through a common facility. Nevertheless, most companies in Technopark are yet to implement it. The IT hub has just two facilities on its premises — Child Care Hub (CC-Hub), a creche/daycare run by the city chapter of Empowering Women in IT (eWIT) since 2015, and a branch of Eurokids, opened under the initiative of Technopark early this year. Which means almost all parents are dependent on centres outside the Technopark campus.

Given the fact that gender inclusivity is on the agenda of most IT majors, the number of women joining the workforce has increased significantly. Moreover, a huge percentage of the women are between the ages of 23 and 29. In spite of the presence of a sizable women workforce consisting of young mothers, day centres and creches on the campus continue to be a rarity.

Limited options

Many techies say that the facilities inside Technopark has its limitations. The fee is high, falling between ₹4000 and ₹7000 per month, depending on the number of hours the child spends there. “The current rate is acceptable in the case of toddlers who need extra care and the facilities are excellent. But the rate can be cut down for older children,” says Shemeer Shamshudheen, an employee with Finastra.

The parents are also unhappy that intake is restricted to 30 at CC-Hub. “That is not enough for the large work force in the IT hub. Eurokids, on the other hand, can accommodate 70 kids. But it closes between 6.30 and 7 pm and therefore is not a good option for those parents who have their shift till 8 pm or so,” says another parent. Radhika V., vice-president of e-WIT, says that they have to restrict the number of children because of space constraint. “We are going by the specifications. There is always a waiting list and sometimes we even get recommendations from top officials seeking admission for the children of their employees!”

The unanimous demand is for a creche/daycare at least in a few more buildings. Awshiqhi Aliyar, Shemeer’s wife, also a Technopark employee, says: “We understand that all companies can’t comply with the Maternity Benefit Act because they don’t have that much space. But it is possible to open at least one centre in each building or in adjacent buildings.”

Her daughter, four-year-old Minna Shemeer, used to be at CC-Hub till she started school and now she goes to a centre outside Technopark from her school. That brings up the pressing need for an after-school facility within the campus.

Immediate need

The crèche/daycare is for kids aged up to four (six in the case of Eurokids) and so most parents depend on after-school centres around the campus. The problem is these centres usually close by 7 pm. Radhika adds, “Once the children start school, parents request us whether we can keep them here after their school hours. We can understand their predicament but that’s not practical. However we do relax the rules in case of an emergency.”

Explaining the need for such after-schoool centres, Parvathy G.S., an employee with Navigant India Pvt Ltd, says: “My son, Adhwaith Manav R, leaves for school by 6.45 am. After school, he goes to a centree in Sreekariyam. It is usually 7 pm when my husband or I pick him up to take him home. If we had an arrangement within the campus that would have kept him occupied and I could have also dropped in to see if he is fine. Maids are not an option for everyone.” Anju Sasidharan Pillai of IBS echoes her sentiments about the necessity of child-friendly care centres on the campus where the children of employees could be dropped off after school.

Awshiqui adds that an inhouse facility ensures safety. “When there is a hartal, daycare centres remain closed fearing any untoward incident. But that won’t happen inside Technopark because of the security at the entrance and we would feel happier too,” she says.

Supporting system

Kids at UST Global’s creche/daycare

Kids at UST Global’s creche/daycare   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

UST Global has a crèche/daycare within its new campus and Infosys has entered into a tie-up with Alaska World School, which is located near its campus. “Our centre is for children in the age group of six months to four years. Even though the timing is 8.30 am to 6 pm, we extend it up to 7 pm. There are over 20 kids at our facility. The activities are strictly monitored every month. We have PTA meetings as well,” says Shilpa Menon, center head, UST Global.

Kids and their caretakers at UST Global’s creche/daycare

Kids and their caretakers at UST Global’s creche/daycare   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Infosys’ facility is for children in the age group of six months to six years. According to Aruna Newton, assistant vice president and head (diversity and inclusion), the facility is for an effective integration of new mothers returning to work after maternity leave. “The company provides free transport for the employees to visit the creche during the day. We also have the Mom’s Net infrastructure for new and expecting mothers,” she says.

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Printable version | Oct 2, 2020 4:20:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/techies-in-technopark-root-for-more-daycare-centres-and-after-school-facilities/article24993853.ece

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