KUALA LUMPUR, May 11 — The government must act quickly to form a consolidated body that regulates and oversees all early childhood education service providers to avoid the ongoing confusion among parents amid shifting SOPs related to enforcement of the movement control orders (MCO), two DAP lawmakers have said.
Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching and Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh, during a virtual press conference on Zoom this morning, said additional measures like categorising childhood education, both private and public, as an essential service must also be taken to avoid further prioritisation mishmash from the National Security Council (NSC).
“On May 7 the NSC guidelines said childcare centres are allowed to open, provided with the permission of the local authorities, but confusion arose yesterday after the Prime Minister announced the whole country would be placed under MCO.
“So the government needs to come up with clear guidelines and SOPs to avoid such situations,” said Teo during the teleconference that was also attended by representatives from several early childhood education operator associations.
Yeoh was formerly deputy women’s affairs minister, while Teo was deputy education minister under the short-lived Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration.
Yeoh then pointed out the multitude of different authorities mandated to govern early childhood education, and suggested efforts taken by Pakatan Harapan to form a consolidated body or agency to look after the sector is continued.
“[PH has] initiated meetings that early childhood be revamped and parked under MOE, to ensure synchronisation and quality and so that students are prepared when they enter Standard One.
“The government and NSC also need to announce that childcare for younger children be labelled as essential service and no one should touch that, MCO or conditional MCO,” she said.
Other appeals presented during the teleconference session include calling on the government to recognise kindergartens and taskas as one entity to rid the current requirements and red tape when trying to obtain an operation license.
Yeoh said the current situation that requires operators to apply for two separate licenses when handling children aged zero to six only complicates the regulation processes involved.
She also pointed out the ad hoc and quick decisions parents would be forced to make when faced with sudden implementations of MCOs, like sending their children to unlicensed nannies or even a friendly neighbour.
“It’s a situation where parents are scrambling for ad hoc random care options, because they are afraid to send their children to their grandparents as they are in the high risk zone, and also afraid to admit to their employers that they do not have childcare in fear of losing their jobs.
“So they end up sending their children to people who are not trained to handle children, and for those aged zero to four-years old, they will not be able to communicate the abuses, and we will then have cases not picked up until much later on.
“These last minute notices will ultimately harm the children,” she added.
Yeoh also expressed her support for calls to inoculate early childhood educators to prevent further spread of the virus, especially those dealing with young children.
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