Preschools provide respite for working parents, but they have their own issuesArbitrary fees, and lack of experienced teachers and stringent guidelines plague kindergartens in city.
“The preschool looks after our child and takes care of her when we are at work,” said 24-year-old Bhandari, who works at an office in Baneshwor. “Although the fees are expensive, it is only fair as children get a safe place to grow, play, eat and learn even when their parents are not around.”
Bhandari’s story is similar to that of other working parents in the city, many of whom don’t have anyone at home to look after children in their absence.
“Earlier, we had grandparents who would look after children in the family before they went to school at around five years of age. But as people started living in nuclear families, they don’t have anyone to look after children and due to their hectic schedule, they are forced to enrol their children to preschools,’’ said psychologist Prabhakar Pokharel of Kist Medical College. “This has helped children learn faster and has taught them to be social even at a small age.”
With more and more parents working, preschools have now sprung up in almost every residential area in the city. According to the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, there are over a hundred preschools registered with the city alone.
“There were only a few preschools in the city until two years ago,” said Ishwar Man Dangol, spokesperson for the Kathmandu Metropolitan City office.
But such schools have their own drawbacks. Psychologist Pokharel says that early schooling can also have a negative impact on the children’s mind.
“When parents send kids to preschools at an early age, it increases the distance between the parents and kids,” said Pokharel. “Parents don’t have time to teach children their value systems.”
Parents drop their children to school in the morning and pick them up after work in the evening. Due to the hectic schedule of both the kids and parents, they rarely get to spend time together, said Pokharel.
“This could impact affection and respect between parents and their children,” said Pokharel.
But preschools say that they have a solution to the issue as well. Anu Rai, principal of Angel Montessori and Preschool, says that she has hired trained teachers to oversee children and their behaviour.
“They learn by doing practical life exercise. We don’t teach them, we make them capable of learning on their own,” said Rai.
However, according to Bidyanath Koirala, former professor at the Department of Education, Tribhuvan University, teachers hired by preschools are often untrained and this can have an impact on the growth of the kids.
“Teachers in preschools are not well paid in general as the schools’ major motive is to make money,” said Koirala. “Many preschools end up hiring teachers who are willing to work for lower salaries. Such teachers are inexperienced and could potentially harm children’s learning.”
The government also rarely monitors preschools to ensure that they are running according to prescribed standards. Although Kathmandu city spokesperson Dangol said that ward offices regularly inspect preschools, none of the schools that the Post spoke to reported any inspection.
Dangol also admitted that many preschools are running without registration.
“That makes it difficult to track the schools,” he said.
Ward offices have been assigned to register and monitor preschools, but they don’t have the capacity to do so, said Dangol.
“If the ward offices were concerned about preschools, they would not have given permission to establish so many preschools in the same area and they would have decided the pay rate. However, in the absence of proper monitoring by the wards, such schools are collecting arbitrary fees,” said Koirala.
But Bhandari, after a busy day at work, is glad her child is safe when she picks her up.
“I’m glad we have these preschools,” she said. “If they were not there, I would have to hire domestic help to look after my daughter.”