PETALING JAYA: Cases of abuse at childcare centres nationwide are on the rise, with 336 cases recorded in 2022 compared with 217 in 2019, according to Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri.
Association of Registered Childcare Providers Malaysia president Datin Wong Poai Hong said the increase could be due to the lower number of registered childcare centres post-Covid, resulting in more children enrolled in fewer facilities.
“Malaysia has only 2,999 centres now, compared with twice the number before Covid-19. The vast majority are unlicensed and of poor quality. Most of the staff are qualified only on paper, as a large number of them were not properly trained on child rights, protection and development.
“Malaysia lacks a national early childhood care and education policy and strategy to guide the sector.
“The majority of parents can only afford to send their children to cheaper daycare centres staffed with unqualified and untrained childminders. This could be why there is a higher chance of abuse cases happening.”
Wong said the government should make it mandatory for all childcare centres to instal closed circuit television cameras, as required by the ministry, although it is not a definite deterrent.
“A more effective way is to make it compulsory for all centres to implement a Child Protection Policy that includes staff screenings and processes for handling abuse cases.”
Child Rights, Innovation and Betterment Foundation co-chair Srividhya Ganapathy said a two-pronged approach is required to reduce such incidents.
“Measures must be put in place to ensure that every childcare centre, even informal neighbourhood ones, is registered with the government.
“If we approach it systematically with the assistance of local councils and communities, it can be achieved. We can only ensure protection if we first know which centre the child attends.
“We must also take urgent steps to ensure that every centre (employee) is provided with basic child protection training. At any point in time, there must be a manageable ratio of children to trained childcare personnel.”
Srividhya said training is needed for them to understand what is right and wrong when it comes to the care of children.
She added that the government must establish comprehensive measures for individuals to report incidents of child abuse, while protecting whistleblowers and educating and raising awareness among the public.
Daycare centre-cum-kindergarten teacher Shafika Basri said the childcare industry has been impacted by the rise in reports of abuse.
“Parents would be anxious about placing their children in childcare centres and (they may) prefer to look after their children themselves or leave them in the care of a family member.”