SRINAGAR: Amidst colourful displays of cartoon characters, Tom and Jerry, the Jungle book character Mowgli and Japanese Doremon at Child Care Centre at Kashmir University, a maid is feeding nine-month-old Mohammad Eisa, youngest at the facility.
Nearly half-a-dozen other kids, whose parents are working and teaching in the different departments in the campus, are playing with toys in a big hall, and a couple of others are sleeping in a corner.
The centre was established in November 2017 in the Institute of Home Science, at the university following the guidelines of University Grants Commission (UGC) to help the working parents, whether permanent or casual, teaching and non-teaching, to work hassle-free by leaving their babies in the centre. According to the UGC guidelines, the university should have proper facilities, resources and personnel to implement the scheme with safe and child-friendly environment and activity centres with play materials.
A onetime lump-sum grant is provided by the Commission and the day to day and operational expenses are met from the payment collected from parents. An official at the Institute of Home Science said that since the Institute runs a course on human development, it was “deemed to be fit” for running the centre “under proper expertise”. The facility takes care of around 15 children, in the age group of six months to two-and-a-half-years, from 10am to 4pm. The kids are looked after by a maid and a “mother” constantly, besides full time CCTV surveillance from the director’s office.
Director, Institute of Home Science, Professor Naheed Vaida, said that the facility was “first of its kind” in the valley, and the concept is now gaining momentum, with other institutions initiating it as well.
Vaida said that they have full-fledged infrastructure required for the centre including washroom, sleeping corner, multimedia set-up, play material, air-conditioners, refrigerator, washing machine, microwave, and steriliser machines.
“We have everything that is required for the smooth running of the centre. They kids remain under our care during the office timings. Apart from the food everything has been taken care of. We feed them home made food which their parents bring but do not allow the junk food,” Naheed said, while playing with the kids during her lunch time.
“Since we advocate breast-feeding, so the mothers are allowed to come and feed their children during the break-time in their respective departments. Apart from one maid and mother the service of other employees of the department is also taken if the need arises,” Naheed said. The director said that the feedback from the parents has been “very positive” and that the parents are now working without any worries about their kids.
Masooda Mir, who works at the central library, said that female employees had to face problems regarding the care of their infants during working hours.
“It was a very good step by the university, I along with many others in the university now work care-free which was not possible earlier,” Masooda said. “The best thing is that they are just a walking distance away and we can visit them any time.”
Off late, establishing child and day care centres in the government and semi-government institutions is picking up in the valley. A few months ago department of community medicine at Government Medical College Srinagar also opened one such centre for their staff. This week SKIMS, Soura also opened a child care centre for its staff, which includes doctors, paramedical staff and other employees, with an aim to reduce the stress levels of its staff. The centre was inaugurated by the Director.