There are fears that poor hygienic conditions would expose the children to communicable diseases, especially now that Harare is experiencing frequent outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as typhoid, dysentery and cholera.
A council discussion on conditions of creches in Harare was sparked by the rising number of applications for change of use of residential houses to creches.
An environmental management committee of Harare City Council recently indicated that several landlords in both high and low-density suburbs had requested to be allowed to use their residential property as creches.
These included houses in Greencroft, Braeside, Kuwadzana, Avondale, and Tynwald.
“I have visited some of these creches in my ward and what I saw is not good,” Councillor Joyce Kariwo said.
“At some of the creches, you find over 100 children crowded in a small room called a classroom and when it is time for their afternoon nap, small blankets are spread on the floor for them to sleep on.”
She said most of the staff at the creches did not possess the requisite training on teaching, caring for and cooking for the children.
“In my ward, some of these creche owners have started tuckshops where they sell the juice brought for the kids. If you taste the drink they give to the children, you realise it is just tasteless coloured water,” said Kariwo.
Councillor Urayayi Mangwiro said people were taking advantage of the gap left by the few early learning institutions offered by government.
Mangwiro said very few schools were offering Zero Grade classes, leaving parents with no option but to look for alternative institutions for their children.
Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda said he had raised the issue with the Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, David Coltart, who promised that his ministry would evaluate the extent of the problem before taking steps to resolve it.
‘Ablution facilities not suitable for kids’
many councillors said in most cases, ablution facilities are not suitable for the young children.
They said, instead of buying smaller chambers, some creches stuck to the standard ones, with children having to struggle to scale on the chambers, sometimes without adult assistance.
Others expressed concern that there was no organisation that looked into adherence to minimum health requirements of staff at creches.
In the absence of such a body, the councillors said, the children risked contracting contagious diseases.