Thursday, February 25, 2021

Kindergartens struggle on with no help in sight

They say they are not asking for money, only for clear and fair policies.

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Private kindergarten operators have expressed regret over the lack of government aid for the early childhood sector as they continue to reel from the various movement control orders (MCOs) implemented throughout the country since March.

They said the lack of initiative from the relevant ministries in preparing policies and decisions in favour of kindergarten operators had caused many to suffer severe financial difficulties.

Nadia Farhani Mohd Yusof, who owns Tadika Gems Smart Kids, said even now, there was no help for private kindergarten operators, many of whom had been forced to close shop due to overwhelming losses.

She said the government should immediately issue SOPs for kindergartens and nurseries to prevent any further losses for operators after the implementation of conditional MCO across most of the country.

Nadia, whose kindergarten in Sentul has been open for less than a year, also suggested that the government extend the loan moratorium period for businesses in sectors that have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This way, she said, business owners could consider immediate measures to save their centres such as giving parents a discount in fees and obtaining waivers for rent.

“Our savings are going fast as we are trying to keep our kindergartens from shutting down,” she told MalaysiaNow.

She added that operators would have to think of other ways to keep their businesses afloat if kindergartens remain shut due to Covid-19.

“Our savings are going fast as we are trying to keep our kindergartens from shutting down.”

Karthikha Raavi owns Tadika Sinar Impian in Taman Bukit Maluri. She told MalaysiaNow that it was impossible for ministers and government officials to be ignorant of the plight of kindergarten operators.

“You are a minister. If you know we are facing difficulties, why don’t you help?

“We are not asking for money,” she added. “We can find that for ourselves. We are only asking for them to make policies that are fair and intelligent.”

Karthikha runs her kindergarten together with her husband, who had been a secondary school teacher for 22 years.

She said the Mandarin teacher who had worked at the kindergarten since 2012 resigned last month as she had been unable to pay her.

“I am not the only one facing problems,” she said. “My teachers are also going through the same thing.

“The kindergarten cannot open, fees are decreasing, and rent must still be paid. What is left for us to pay the teachers?”

Nurseries fall under the purview of the women, family and community development ministry while kindergartens are under the education ministry.

Former deputy women, family and community development minister Hannah Yeoh said there was a strong possibility that the two ministries in question had not discussed the issue, causing confusion in the announcements by the National Security Council (NSC).

Speaking at a recent press conference in Parliament with former education minister Maszlee Malik and his former deputy Teo Nie Ching, she said kindergartens and nurseries are under different ministries.

“So when the NSC only makes an announcement about nurseries, kindergarten operators are left in the dark.”

“We are only asking for them to make policies that are fair and intelligent.”

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, the Segambut MP said if such confusion continues, parents might not keep paying fees.

She said the closure of centres would also jeopardise business for these operators who might not be able to pay their teachers and staff members, either.

Only recently, she said, the three of them had had a virtual meeting with kindergarten operators in Pahang, which is a green zone state. All of them agreed that no one had come forward to help them.

“Some operators broke down in tears in front of us, thinking about their struggle to pay their teachers and workers over the last few months because of Covid-19,” she added.

A petition calling on the education ministry to allow kindergartens to resume operations has so far gained over 13,250 signatures.

The petition was launched on behalf of working parents who cannot afford to pay for extra help with their children.

It is understood that two weeks ago, another petition was submitted to Education Minister Radzi Jidin by a representative of kindergarten operators.

MalaysiaNow’s efforts to obtain a response from Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Harun have so far failed.

When contacted, meanwhile, a spokesman for the education ministry said there has been no change in the decision to shut down schools.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Radzi said schools in non-CMCO states had been shut down along with those in CMCO states to protect students from contracting Covid-19.

“Covid-19 does not differentiate between green and red,” he said. “If it did, our work would be much easier.”

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