Early childhood educators and kindergarten operators see rough times post-MCO
A notice of closure is seen at a kindergarten in Taman Siakap, Seberang Jaya after the Movement Control Order, March 17, 2020. u00e2u20acu201d Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, April 24 — The Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with the movement control order (MCO), has hit early childhood educators (pre-school) as well as childcare providers, and nurseries, hard.


Some operators are wondering if they can resume operations after the MCO is lifted as parents are expected to face financial problems stemming from pay cuts and, in some cases, retrenchment.

Some kindergartens have opted to conduct online classes utilising Skype, Zoom or WhatsApp to provide a certain level of service to children under their care.

However, many parents feel these nurseries and kindergartens should reduce their monthly fees to reflect these changes, said one operator who only wished to be known as Rokiah.

"We understand that people are facing financial instability at the moment. Despite it all, we are still providing our services through digital means.

"But some parents refuse to pay or ask for a discount due to the current nature of our service. Both sides are now making compromises to support each other but if parents do not support us, then we have no choice but to face the grim reality that many of us could simply halt operations,’’ said Rokiah.

"We are still providing the same level of service albeit remotely, to our children. We do not want them to be left behind. But we cannot continue if we do not have the proper support,’’ she added.

Rokiah said she has applied to the Wage Subsidy Programme under the Social Security Organisation (Socso), where each of her four teachers is entitled to RM1,200.

However, she said that this is not enough and urged the government to focus on early childhood educators and nurseries as they provide an essential service to the community.

This was echoed by another early childhood educator in Johor who wished to remain anonymous.

This operator is in charge of a centre that caters to 100 over children and employs 13 teachers.

She said parents have pressured her to reduce her monthly fees by half since the start of the MCO. She also utilises online digital platforms to educate children under her care.

"We still provide academic services to the children but parents do not want to pay for those services, reasoning that their children are at home and most of the academic work assigned to their children is completed by them.

"I eventually had to cave and cut my monthly fees in half,’’ she said.

"I am thankful that we have applied for the wage subsidy as this allows me to pay my teachers half of their salaries but if this trend continues, it is a real possibility that I might have to stop operations altogether,’’ she said.

However, even after the MCO is lifted, the Johor-based childhood educator said the industry will face tough couple of months moving forward.

"Most definitely, parents are not going to send their children to our centres straight away due to fear of Covid-19. This would further reduce our income, not to mention the possible added cost that is needed to adapt to strict regulations post-MCO,’’ she said, stating that strict sanitation measures could be part of the framework for businesses post-MCO.

Despite the closure of preschools under the MCO, operators are still responsible for maintaining their facilities, educational programmes and trained teachers throughout the year for all registered students.

Gains Education Group chief executive Zaliza Alias expressed her concerns about the future of industry as a whole after the MCO is lifted.

Zaliza Alias is also the director of Genius Aulad International Group Sdn Bhd that runs early childhood education centre, Genius Aulad.

While she acknowledges that her company was more resilient in facing the economic woes of Covid-19 due to its extensive network, she said profit should not be the main focus during these trying times.

Instead, early childhood educators and parents need to find common ground to support one another, said Zaliza.

"Early childhood education providers and nurseries are essential business as they provide a community service. A large degree of trust is also involved between the parents and these centres.

"It is a difficult time for everyone, the best way forward is for operators to be transparent with parents. Both sides need to understand one another and must continue to communicate. As educators, continue to guide and provide parents daily on the education support that we can give,” she said.

* Parts of this report have been updated as some respondents clarified their remarks following its publication.

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