Children’s Rights Committee draws a line in the sand

"Kindergarten sandboxes poorly maintained."

January 3, 2017 22:32
1 minute read.
Beit yannay sand sculpting contest, held for the 20th year

Beit yannay sand sculpting contest, held for the 20th year. (photo credit: AMIT LEVKOV/ISRAEL NATURE AND PARKS AUTHORITY)

Health Ministry recommendations for ensuring sandboxes at kindergartens are safe have not been implemented, members of the Knesset Committee for Children’s Rights charged at a meeting on Tuesday.

Parents in attendance at the meeting said that the unclean sand in sandboxes had caused skin sores and infections in children playing in sandboxes. A Health Ministry official said that local authority personnel and municipal officials were responsible for carrying out ongoing maintenance of sandboxes in kindergartens, while kindergarten staff were responsible for preventing pest and bacteria problems.

Committee chairman Yifat Shasha-Biton said that the Education Ministry must create new standards and implement them, adding that she was considering advancing legislation to regulate the matter. She also complained that representatives of local authorities had not attended the meeting.

The committee has received complaints from parents across the country about the poor sanitation and hygiene in sandboxes. These play areas are often home to various insects as well as the breeding ground for bacteria and parasites, in part due to roaming cats.

Many kindergartens do not implement the Health Ministry recommendation that the sand in sandboxes be changed twice a year. In addition, Education Ministry regulations only require adding clean sand and not replacing used sand.

The situation is “not catastrophic,” said Rotem Zahavi, the Education Ministry’s official in charge of environmental safety. “There are problems. The sand must be clean and without objects that can harm children. At the end of the day, the kindergarten teacher is supposed to cover the sandbox with heavy plastic.”

The Health Ministry sends an inspector to each kindergarten once every five years, she added.

“I know that the Health Ministry’s recommendations are not implemented, and this is the local authorities’ responsibility,” she said.

Ma’ayan Zadok, the mother of a child in a Hod Hasharon kindergarten, said that toddlers in kindergartens in her neighborhood had become sick with dysentery as a result of poor sandbox maintenance. “Everyone throws the responsibility on someone else. The level of sanitation [in sandboxes] is very low,” she said.

The committee chairman summarized the meeting by saying that government regulations for protecting children’s health as well as their enforcement needed to be improved. She added that private kindergartens must also be required to abide by such regulations.

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