Coastal child care institutions need to ensure they comply with standards

Operating a daycare centre is literally not child’s play anymore. This comes after a woman who operated a day care centre was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court last week, after an 11-month-old boy drowned in the swimming pool at the day care centre in 2012. The woman, Catherine Agnes van den Berg, is due for sentencing later this month.
Van den Berg was found to be responsible for the death of 11-month-old Ferreira Scholtz on 20 November 2012.
Van den Berg testified she was taking a routine nap in the afternoon with children at her day care centre. One of the children managed to open a door which lead to a part of the premises where the swimming pool is located. Ferreira managed to get out of the house to the pool area through this door. He fell into the pool and drowned. His lifeless body was found only some time later.
In the wake of the guilty verdict, several authorities working with the registration of day care centres at the coast extended a stern warning this week for daycare centre owners to ensure they are properly registered to operate such establishments, that the premises is assessed for the safety of children attending these centres and that proper policies and procedures are in place to protect children from harm.
Currently there are 16 daycare centres registered as businesses at the Walvis Bay municipality. This means 16 daycare centres which can be inspected and assessed from time to time by the health department. An official source at the municipality confirmed though there are more than these registered 16 daycare centres, meaning there are centers that are operating illegally and without any professional guidelines to ensure health, hygiene and safety.
“We call upon operators of daycare centres not registered to do so without delay, as this case where van den Berg has been found guilty of involuntary man
slaughter is viewed in a very serious light and should act as a wake up call to daycare centre operators to comply.
Once registered at the municipality, the local authority follows guidelines for daycare centres set by the Ministry of Health and Social Services. These include among others:
The structural regulations for setting up a crèche/nursery school-/day-care state the following:
Office, staff room and sick bay: If there are more than 30 children in the school, there must be a room that can be divided into a sick bay that can accommodate two children. The same room can also be used as a staff room.
Indoor play area: There must be an indoor area that covers 1.8 square metres of floor space per child, which can be used for playing, meals and resting.
Kitchen: The kitchen must have suitable cooking and washing facilities, separate from the play area. There must be enough natural lighting and ventilation, and walls should be smooth and painted with washable paint.
Bathrooms: There must be one toilet and hand washing area for every 20 children under the age of five. The same goes for children over the age of five, but the girls’ bathroom must be separate from the boys’ bathroom. There must be hot and cold water at the basins. Potties must be emptied, cleaned and disinfected.
Outdoor play area: An outdoor play area must provide at least two square metres of space per child. The area must have shady parts, be fenced off and have approved lockable gates. The area must also be free of excavations, dangerous steps and levels.
General: The crèche must keep a health register.
Other requirements
To make sure all criteria are met and licenses are obtained, you may consider contracting a lawyer and insurer to make an assessment and give you advice. To run your business effectively, you must have:
A safe playground that meets the requirements set out by the local municipality.
Insurance: At the very least, you should have public liability insurance, accident and equipment liability insurance. Make sure that you meet all the requirements set out by the insurance company so you don’t have any surprises when you claim.
Compliance: Once you are set up, the local authority will come to assess the premises and the playground. The Medical Officer of Health will issue you with an Environmental Health Permit for the playground.
To serve food, you will need a Certificate of Compliance for Food Preparation.
Inspections by your local officials of the Ministry of Health and Social Services can be made without notice to assess whether you are complying with the relevant regulations.
It’s important that you make sure you know exactly what is required in terms of all the legalities of setting up a business in child care. Contact your local authority and the Ministry of Health and Social Services for information.

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