BOBIE-LEE DIXON

([email protected])

As childcare spaces remain closed to reduce the spread of the coronavirus to the country’s most vulnerable, one daycare owner is pleading with the Government to start the conversation on the possible reopening of legitimate daycares as he said this sector was hit hardest by COVID-19 and seemed to be, forgotten.

Aaron Pollard and his wife Shelly are the owners and directors of the Tunapuna-based childcare center— Kiddirific Day Nursery.

In an interview, Pollard said while other sectors had been reopened and allowed to operate with decreased capacities and arrangements, there continued to be absolutely no discussion about the much-needed daycare services.

He said while pre-schools might still be able to operate virtually. For daycare only operators, this was not a practical option.

He said the continued closure of legitimate daycares resulted in the increased pop-ups of informal and unregulated childcare spaces, as there was a greater demand for childcare services with schools and legal childcare centers remaining closed since March.

“What we have now is a scenario where the registered daycares that pay all their taxes, they are closed and cannot open, while many informal and unregistered daycares have flourished,” Pollard said.

He said he found it very strange the Government would not think that under the circumstances such operations would not have been formed.

“People are going to work so their children are staying somewhere. So I don’t know if the Government knows and is just turning a blind,” he questioned.

Pollard said unlike associations representing other sectors, there was no one lobbying on behalf of legitimate daycare owners. And it was not just daycare owners feeling the strain, but daycare workers as well whose studied field is in childcare, leaving them with very little or no options for alternative work.

He described the situation so stark, that many daycare operators have been advertising the sale of their equipment on social media, as they can no longer survive.

“I cannot think of another industry in Trinidad and has not had the chance to reopen. There are no means there is nothing we can do,” Pollard lamented.

He continued, “We have taxis and other businesses operating with reduced capacities. We too can adjust. We can make different arrangements so that the livelihood can continue.”

Pollard said there was a white paper before the Government, which possessed contents on how regulated childcare spaces were to operate regarding floor space and the number of children a daycare could intake, based on their floor space. He said adjustments can be made if instructions are given by the Government of a reduced percentage.

“Give us something. We are going now for almost a year, yet whenever they speak about reopening schools, they mention only pre-schools to secondary schools and there is no talk about daycare at all. We are willing to adjust and compromise where necessary, but there must be some discussion taking place,” Pollard stressed.

He said the longer it took to begin such a discussion and to reopen legitimate daycares, the more difficult it would become for operators in this sector, who would most likely have to start over from scratch.

“With the nature of a daycare, you only have a child for so long, at a certain time they go on to pre-school. By the time they decide to reopen daycares, that period would be lost. So daycare operators who already established a name for themselves are going to have to engage in marketing all over again—starting from scratch,” Pollard illustrated.

He added, “We understand because of the pandemic, it is the new norm. But we just want someone to think about us when they are making their decisions because apparently, we are the forgotten group.”