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Defining Child Sexual Abuse.(Photo by: PIXABAY)
This is not the solution and this is not the problem
The horrifying child abuse at a private nursery in Rosh Ha’ayin creates an opportunity.
The shocking recent events at the kindergarten in Rosh Ha’ayin, including pictures of the caregiver who felt no compassion for the children in her care, provoked many parents to rise up and reach the conclusion that it was time to do something. They have now joined our years-long struggle by organizations working in the field whose purpose is to regulate the treatment of early childhood education in Israel.

The government, for its part, presents a quick and comprehensive solution: the transfer of authority over early childhood centers, which was once held by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, from the Ministry of Welfare to the Ministry of Education. A hot potato that passes from office to office in search of the magic formula that will heal the industry. But while the abusive caregiver proved to us that cameras do not protect children from the outbursts of out-of-control nannies, the “stripping teacher” from Petah Tikva popped up to remind us that even “supervised” and state-controlled frameworks are not immune to extreme cases and workers who go rogue. Therefore, even if the protesting parents wave the flag of supervision as their central model, and even if solutions are needed for hundreds of thousands of children a year that have no place in institutional frameworks, this is still not the problem itself.

The real problem of early childhood education is in three simple words: lack of investment, lack of sufficient financial investment by the state, which ultimately results in the treatment that the toddler will receive. Because the attention the child gets and the norms of care in the day care centers are a function of the budget – of the professionalism of the professional staff, of the quality of the personnel hired and the ability to maintain experienced workers, of the manpower standards in relation to the number of children, and of the maintenance of the infrastructure.

Let’s talk in numbers. Today, a caregiver in a day care center earns 30% less than the salary of a caregiver in a municipal day care center, who also earns a very modest salary in light of the demands of the job. There is no logical explanation for this difference, aside from the neglect of early childhood education as a long-standing government policy.

ANOTHER EXAMPLE: The standard stipulates that for every six children up to the age of 15 months there will be one worker, and at the age of two-three years, one worker will be assigned to every 11 children. Anyone who works in the field understands that these standards do not allow attention to be given to every child and creates tremendous burnout among those engaged in the work.

These are just examples. These and other problems can be resolved not through the transfer of powers, but through budgetary transfers, not through the replacement of appointed ministers, but through a change of priorities. The education minister was right when he decided that saving the deprived sector would cost the state billions of shekels, and even if the sum he presented – NIS 5.4 billion – is above the state’s current capacity, even the more modest program we presented at a cost of NIS 2 billion a year has the power to solve the main points of the problem.

The worried parents who went out to protest are right, of course. The crisis exists, but not just in the disturbing films of the criminal events that sometimes take place in the day care centers and kindergartens. Distress is part of the daily routine that does not reach the news headlines. The expansion of supervision is a positive and necessary step. Even more important, it is imperative to strengthen existing systems by increasing the standards for budgeted workers, expanding the possibility of absorbing skilled and professional manpower by improving the conditions of employment, improving infrastructures and structures, investing in activities and circles, investing in and training the human capital of the professional teams, and by all these, upgrading the functioning of the supervised day care centers
The emergence of the next Carmel Mauda cannot completely be prevented, and criminal acts that are the exception to the rule may emerge from time to time, wherever there is a human factor. But the video that shocked us all is a good opportunity to look at our young children and decide once and for all how much we want to invest in them, and what conditions we want to provide them in their first three years of life.

The writer is the chairperson of World WIZO.
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