Our work in Korogocho and Viwandani informal settlements in Nairobi has revealed a rapid mushrooming of daycare centers to meet the increasing demand for the services. This has resulted from the increased entry of women into paid work amidst the gradual disappearance of family and kinship support in child care. However, the quality of service in the daycare centers remains characterized by untrained care providers, small crowded rooms without sufficient stimulation, poor nutrition, and hygiene and sanitation. These conditions put the children at risk of diseases, poor growth and development.
Through a series of consultation workshops with stakeholders in the two slums, we established the causes for the poor daycare quality as low skill level of the providers, extreme poverty, inadequate infrastructure and service delivery in these communities, and limited support and supervision from health and education sectors.
Working with the different stakeholders, we identified several strategies to address the challenges, including the need to equip center providers with knowledge and skills on caregiving in terms of health, nutrition safety, and wellbeing. This was particularly critical for home-based centers, usually run by women (mamapreneurs) with no formal education or training in child care but motivated to fill the need while also earning an income.
In an intervention implemented in 61 daycare centers by community health volunteers (CHVs) over six months, a community of practice approach involving training and support supervision of center providers in Korogocho and Viwandani in Ruaraka and Makadara sub-counties respectively proved a viable model. Center providers testified that the intervention equipped them with knowledge and skills in good child care, including feeding, play and interaction, child protection, child health, and efficient management of their business. CHVs also reported that the intervention was feasible. Decision-makers at the different levels also were optimistic about the initiative and were keen to support its integration.
Efforts to empower center providers through financial support to provide modern facilities, bigger and stimulating spaces, and play materials are likely to improve the state of daycare. The government also ought to address the poor infrastructure in health and WASH and provide regulations for child care centers.
We expect that this innovation will, in the long term, result in great improvements in the quality of daycare centers in the slums and ultimately optimize early childhood development outcomes.