Teaching shops for young
A majority of kindergartens offer few facilities for children, and are more money-making businesses for owners.
Killid conducted an informal survey and found 85 percent of private kindergartens, which are schools for tiny tots, do not have adequate numbers of professional educators and space for children to either sit or play.
Of the 762 registered kindergartens, 400 are private. There are roughly 5 million children who are ready to start school in Afghanistan. But few enroll at the kindergarten level.
Private kindergartens charge students between 1,000 and 7,000 Afs (15 and 102 USD) per month. A majority are not registered, and the staff are not protected by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD).
Jamila Nooristani, general head of kindergartens, says that after the approval of bill number 1126 in 2013, "we have been able to register 200 out of 400 private kindergartens."
Kindergartens have been set up with the idea of making money, Nooristani confirms
However, the list provided by the directorate general of kindergartens to Killid shows that only 55 private kindergartens – roughly about 14 percent of all private kindergartens – are licenced. Of these 44 schools are in Kabul, two in Balkh, one each in Ghazni, Helmand and in Ghor province. Six unprofitable kindergartens are also included in this list.
Registered kindergartens allege those operating illegally are giving them a bad name.
Tareq Ehsan Alam, founder of a kindergarten called Aghosh e Moder (bosom of the mother) says, "New kindergartens have come up near ours, which don't have permits and they have cut into our business. We used to attract 70 percent of the children, now it has decreased to 50 percent," he says.
Alam says the school has complained to the directorate general of kindergartens, but nothing has come of it.
Maryam Sajadi, founder and manager of Khatamunabiyeen kindergarten, says she paid 47,000 Afs (687 USD) as guarantee and 5,000 Afs (73 USD) as permit fee apart from paying taxes on staff salaries every month. The unlicenced kindergartens pay no tax to the government, and there is no one to close them down, she rues.
Moreover, according to Sajadi, the directorate general does not monitor unlicenced kindergartens. "They (authorities from the directorate general of kindergartens) come once a year to schools that have the work permit," she says. Under the rules, the kindergarten must have at least seven rooms, separate dining room, library, store and kitchen. The teachers should have a minimum qualification of baccalaureate and the school must have first-aid box, fire-extinguisher, modern toilets, and provision of clean drinking water, offer transportation and facilities for recreation.
Killid found licenced kindergartens that are violating the rules.
Jamila Nooristani, general head of kindergartens, believes none of the unlicenced kindergartens have qualified teachers. "The graph of professional teachers is zero in private kindergartens as they are given very low salary. Sometimes, class 10 students are working as teachers in kindergartens," she says. She insists the practice will be stopped.
The five-member MoLSAMD office, which is attached to the directorate general of kindergartens, has the impossible task of surveying, monitoring, distributing work permits, collecting guarantees and statistics. An official in the ministry, who did not want to be identified, revealed the five working in the private sector office of the directorate general were "a manager, two officers and two employees". The office does not even have a vehicle for the staff to go on inspection.
He adds that though requests for both additional staff and other facilities including an official vehicle have been made many times no one has paid the slightest attention.
Meanwhile, government-run kindergartens are also in a mess.
MoLSAMD says 362 kindergartens are registered with the government. Each student pays a fee of 200 Afs (3 USD) per month. Close to half the kindergartens are in residential neighbourhoods and offer very poor facilities.
There is a shortage of teachers, and food stuff (provisions) is often delivered late. Also, the quality is indifferent. "If we have beans and peas, we don't have the ghee and vegetables," says one teacher who adds, "We contribute every day from our personal money to buy the vegetables."
The teacher recounts an instance when the milk provided had problems. "The milk that was distributed last year was very poor quality, and when we reported, the inspectors came to check and stopped supplies. They did not provide an alternative."
Space constraints are common to both public and private kindergartens. Samia Nawroozi, manager of Onchi Afghanan kindergarten in the 13th District of Kabul says, "The kindergarten is operating out of rented premises and there is no green area or playing field. But there are adequate classrooms."
Are the teachers patient with their wards?
A mother who did not want to reveal her name says, "They use abusive words against our kids. They threaten and scare them to ensure discipline. For instance a child who does not want to sleep during the time for sleeping will be threatened with dire consequences."
Many mothers confide they would not put their children in kindergartens if they had a choice. The authorities have not bothered to address even one of their complaints.