OPINION

Daycare schools

Daycare schools are, no doubt, a much-needed institution. First of all, they help overcome an acute social problem, that of caring for younger children whose parents both work and who have no relative living nearby to look after them once their lessons are over. The seriousness of this problem is demonstrated by the precipitous rise in the applications for a spot at any one of the available daycare schools. This year applications are up by 120 percent in relation to last year. As expected, demand is highest in the Attica region. What many people are probably not aware of is the rapid increase in the number of daycare schools. According to the Education Ministry, this school year 864 of the 1,054 primary schools (82 percent) and 552 of the 1,030 kindergartens (54 percent) in Attica will function as daycare schools. The progress is stunning, as 46 percent of the country’s primary schools and kindergartens will operate on an all-day basis. However, questions still remain over the young pupils’ curriculum and activities during these extra school hours. The Ministry, of course, speaks of «high quality educational content and an attractive program of activities» but, in truth, many of the existing daycare schools function merely as places to park a child. A near-distraught teacher often struggles to tame 20 or 30 children who are fretful and tired after having remained cooped up in the same space for many hours and are therefore more unruly and undisciplined as time passes. Her primary concern being to make sure than no one escapes her attention, it’s a trial for pupils and teachers alike. Transforming these parking spaces for children into a pleasant environment that is both committed to the development of the children’s educational skills as well as being compatible with the parents’ work and family duties, presupposes a substantial improvement of daycare schools. Bigger and better equipped schools with more teachers are needed if all-day schools are to be upgraded. This will require considerable funds but on this point government promises are rather vague. Turning an ordinary school into a daycare school is not enough. The State must first provide considerable funds and the rest will follow. Only serious investment will convince us of the seriousness of government pledges.