Export Processing Zone Labor Welfare Fund (EPZLWF)

Day Care Centers in Mauritius

Context and Need: Full employment in Mauritius has raised the need for day care facilities for young children as the number of mothers' engaged in paid employment is on the increase. Since 1983, the percentage of women working full time has increased from 20 % to approximately 50%. A 1994 Ministry of Women's Rights, Child development and Family Welfare (MWRCDFW) survey noted that married women who work have a particularly difficult time in balancing work and family responsibilities, especially those women with children. Government of Mauritius national planning documents assess that while half of households have both parents working, the conditions of day cares are often unsatisfactory. In addition, the bulk of day care tends to be urban and expensive, and those municipal programs that do exist for lower income families are of varied quality.

Focusing upon the EPZ, two-thirds of its approximately 83,000 employees are female. A recent survey of EPZ households found that 33.2% of fathers were absent from households and 21% were retired. The survey also found disrupted family organization, women of the EPZ with substantial time constraints, and children who were neglected, emotionally affected. Institutional supports were not available to help these women and children cope and their food habits worsened as a result of these new realities. The study concludes that parents are dividing their lives between work and domestic responsibilities, and that their time for and attention to their marriages and child care is suffering.

Objective: to provide day care for children from ages 3 months to three years.

Approach: The MWRCDFW has initiated the setting up of 5 day care centers sponsored by the EPZ Labour Welfare Fund, the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund and the Ministry. At industrial worksites in the EPZ are five Fund-supported centers that offer health and nutrition support as well as full day child care. The centers have running water and plumbing, activity and sleeping rooms, kitchens as well as in-door and outdoor play areas.

Target Population: children from ages 3 months to three years, sons and daughters of EPZ employees as well as non-employees.

ECD Workers (Caregivers): Day care staff have a secondary education and have received day care training. The supervisors are paid a starting annual salary of 35,700 rupees and beginning day care attendants receive R26,400.

Organizational Structure of the Effort: A Fund Oversight Committee consists of one representative each from the Ministry of Industrial Relations, MWRCDFW, Ministry of Finance as well as eight representatives form the employers and the employee unions. The centers are managed by NGOs and UNICEF supports them with training and equipment.

National ECD Policy: Included in the MWRCDFW's brief is to enunciate policies toward creating necessary conditions for the protection, care, comfort, socialization and education that will pave the way towards the child's secured development. This ministry believe that "there is no single institution which can claim to play the leading role in ensuring the overall growth and the development of the child. The promotion of the child's physical, intellectual, social and moral development calls for a concerted and coordinated policy with the commitments, cooperation and dedication of parents, grandparents, neighbors, schools, socio-cultural and religious bodies, services institutions in the public and private sectors and NGOs. Child development cannot be viewed in isolation since the child is an integral part of the family and society."

Building from consultations with a variety of groups during the International Year of the Family, the MWRCDFW began to raise the awareness of family welfare issues, and specifically child care and development. Holding seminars with EPZ workers and hearing their demands as well as with private sector to discuss mutually beneficial action in the social sector brought recommendations of day care center support. In the national plan of Action for Children, "NGOs and local government to participate in the development of Day Care Services to the extent needed for all children to have access to them. In addition, it that the Ministry of Education and Science "encourage sugar plantations and other enterprises to establish and support pre-primary schools" (p. 37). Complimenting these efforts from industry and employees, the EPZ Labour Welfare Fund Act 5 of 1988 established a body corporate with the object of "to do all things as appear requisite and advantageous for or in connection with the advancement and promotion of welfare of the workers and their children" (p. 49).

National Structures, Roles of Institutional Stakeholders: Day care is an entry under "Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances" in the National Plan of Action and recommended actions include:

Norms for such centers are being established by the MWRCDFW with UNICEF assistance so as to upgrade standards and to provide appropriate training for personnel. The EPZWLF day cares are a crucial model and will help partners define costs and test norms.

Inter-ministerial coordination: In 1990, the National Children's Council Act (Act 10 of 1990) established a National Council to be administered by an inter-ministerial Committee chaired by the MWRCDFW. With this lead ministry, the EPZ effort is testing the model of private-sector support to day care centers.

Partnership with other Organizations: These efforts complement those of many other organizations working in ECD in Mauritius. For example, most of the 850 known pre-primary schools are private, with several NGOs providing training, support and supervision services. Government inputs include: establishment of a Pre-primary unit to monitor progress; 9 regional training centers for preprimary teachers; a Pre-school trust fund that receives grants each year from the government; loans on concessionary terms to pre-primary schools wishing to make improvements.

UNICEF plays a supporting role to these activities with training for day care supervision and caregivers as well as supply of pedagogical materials to training programs. An Information, Education and Communication (IEC) program of UNICEF targets parents. BvLF has helped to beef up training capacity by training a core of 12 trainers. Save the Children\Mauritius has organized a "Salon de L'enfance" to share information with families on child care providers and availability. In addition, the UNICEF-GOM 1996 plan of action will focus upon "building national capacity to better organize the supervise through the development of official policy and regulations." Advocacy efforts in this project will call for greater attention and support for day care centers from business, local government and the private sector.

Donors, Sponsors: EPZ Labour Welfare Fund, parents, employees, local and national government, UNICEF.

Economic Costs and Financing

Workers, employers and government contribute to the Fund. On a monthly basis, employees contribute one rupee and employers contribute 3 rupees per employee. Annually, the government contributes 2 million rupees.

Fees: EPZ workers are charged a free of 250 rupees a month for their children's attendance, while non-EPZ workers are charged 400 rupees a month.

In-kind contributions: At one site, the local government provided land and UNICEF has supported the effort with equipment.

Sustainability: Given the financial contributions as well as the policy developments in support of this pilot and its results, the sustainability of this public-private partnership appears bright.

Strengths:

  1. Broad-based support in government and industry for child development awareness and efforts;
  2. Innovative pilot financing.

Challenges:

  1. The questionable availability of in-kind contributions (land, equipment) to support broad expansion;
  2. As the 5 pilot centers meet needs for a portion of the working population in Mauritius, it will be necessary in extending its reach to maintain quality while avoiding over-standardization; and build in a flexibility of center structure, schedules, staffing, activities and curriculum to meet the varied needs of the population;
  3. Meeting working women’s needs for custodial care and meeting children’s holistic needs for development are not necessarily achieved simultaneously in a day care center. Quality and holism in the service provision must be central to the evaluation and pilot learning.

Sources:

Mauritius Country Paper. Presented at "Achieving Education For All" workshop in Mauritius, May 1994.

Address by Hon. Mrs. S. Bappoo, Minister of Women's Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare. Presented at " Achieving Education For All: Reflexion Dirigée on Parenting, Young Child Development, Quality Learning" in Mauritius, May 1994.

Government of the Republic of Mauritius, UNICEF. Country Education Programme 1996-2000, Early Childhood Development Project 1996 Plan of Action. January 1996.

Government of the Republic of Mauritius, UNICEF. Country Education Programme 1996-2000, Social Policy Development Project 1996 Plan of Action. January 1996.

Government of the Republic of Mauritius, UNICEF. Country Education Programme 1996-2000, Advocacy Project 1996 Plan of Action. January 1996.

Government of the Republic of Mauritius, Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare. Survey on the Mauritian Family. December 1994.

UNICEF. Situation Analysis of Women and Children in Mauritius 1994.

Government of the Republic of Mauritius, UNICEF. Country Programme of Cooperation 1996-2000, Part I: Master Plan of Operations. June 1995.

Government of the Republic of Mauritius, Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare. Towards the Preparation of a National Action Programme for Building the Smallest Democracy at the Heart of Society. December 1994.

Government of the Republic of Mauritius, V. Ringadoo, Governor General. National Children's Council Act 1990 (Act 10 of 1990). 7 June 1990.