Syazwani Hj Rosli
Following the second phase of the de-escalation plan, childcare centres across Brunei Darussalam have been operating at a limited capacity under strict health guidelines.
Owner of My Baby Genius Childcare Pengiran Hajah Dewi Sarhani @ Pengiran Hajah Fatin Faezah binti Pengiran Haji Sarpudin said childcare providers are required to obtain a specific certificate for re-opening approval from the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Community Development Department (JAPEM) after inspections to ensure that they are operating in accordance with the stipulated rules and guidelines.
Her staff have also been taking extra precautions for the safety of everyone involved, which include more cleaning and sanitising, personal hygiene, and maintaining social distancing. But even while complying with the ‘new norms’, she is still concerned about the reduced number of students that they are permitted to host.
“We apologise to parents, as some providers do not have enough capacity for the children whom we looked after prior to the pandemic,” she said. “The current limit is just six children, as opposed to our usual group of 25 to 30.
“Many parents expressed disappointment with us when they couldn’t find a spot for their children, especially those who have work obligations. But we have to be patient for now.”
Pengiran Hajah Dewi Sarhani @ Pengiran Hajah Fatin Faezah, who opened a childcare centre last year, told the Bulletin, “The enrolment numbers may have decreased, but the expenses have not.
“I still had to pay the monthly rental fees for the past three months, despite the lack of income. I paid for everything out of my pocket, and it was difficult for me. I hope that the capacity will increase soon, to help us continue.”
Little Gems Daycare General Manager Pengiran Haji Zahari bin Pengiran Haji Ahmad said the current limitation on enrolment forced childcare providers to change their registration procedures to a first-come-first-served basis depending on the packages selected. “I do hope that the capacity can be increased to 50 per cent at least, considering that our country has managed to flatten the curve to zero cases for a month,” he said.
“This would assist us to continue providing services to busy parents. We also need to maintain our current staff and pay the rent, staff wages and other expenses.”
A mother of two, who wished to remain anonymous, said she and her husband have been taking turns in caring for the children amid their work schedules.
“We ended up asking our parents to help care for them,” she said. “We really hope to obtain a slot once the capacity increases, and we can’t wait for it to be announced.”