VISIT the facility during operating hours and watch how children are engaging with one another and their teachers. Picture: af.mil

South Africans were left reeling last week after child abuse at a Carletonville crèche went viral. It was the stuff of every parent’s nightmare: video footage showed a teacher physically abusing toddlers while another teacher filmed it. The accused has been arrested.

Meg Faure, an occupational therapist and author of the best-seller Baby Sense, offers tips on choosing the right daycare facility.

Ratio of children to carers

For two- to three-year-olds, there should be no more than six children in a group per carer,” said Faure. “Socially, a two-year-old child is ready for group interaction and stimulation, but needs a lot of individual attention which can only be provided within a small group.”

Adherence to ECD criteria

If the playgroup has more than six kids, it needs to be registered with the Department of Education and fulfill certain criteria. It must be:

  • Registered with the provincial government.
  • Managed and maintained according to the Guidelines for Early Childhood Development Centres.
  • Compliant with the norms and standards, which include having:

  1. A safe environment, and proper care for sick children or children who become ill.
  2. Space and ventilation.
  3. Safe drinking water.
  4. A hygienic building equipped with toilet facilities.
  5. Safe storage of anything that might be harmful to children.
  6. Access to refuse disposal services or other adequate means of disposal of refuse generated at the facility.
  7. A hygienic area for the preparation of food for children.
  8. Measures in place to separate children of different age groups.
  9. Action plans for emergencies, and policies and procedures regarding healthcare.

Proper qualifications

Faure said it was essential that teachers and childcarers were qualified in first aid. Teachers should also be proficient in basic maths, science and literacy. Studies show that children between the ages of three and five can engage in and learn from scientific thinking. A skilled teacher can instill this kind of thinking from a young age.

Observe how children are engaging. Visit the facility during operating hours and watch how children are engaging with one another and their teachers. Are they getting sufficient playtime? “Outdoor play is very important; children learn through this play,” Faure said.

Red flags

The biggest red flag is parental intuition. If you have an uneasy feeling, then go with your gut. Other red flags to look out for:

  • Is the play area clean and neat?
  • Is it well ventilated?
  • Is there easy access to the toilet?
  • What about health and safety such as general hygiene?
  • Are there dirty nappies lying around?
  • Are teachers engaging with the kids on their level or sitting apart from them and on their phones?