Childcare in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwean families have changed dramatically in recent years, as more mothers enter the workforce.
As a result, stay-at-home mothers have become increasingly rare. Trends in the country show a steady upward increase in both parents working full-time, underscoring the need for adequate support and child care, especially in the case of low-income earners who have fewer private resources available to them. The changes have profound implications on work-family policies, in terms of promoting child wellbeing. Government’s legislative role and the provision of day care facilities come into sharp focus.
In this article we will look at three types of work-family policies:
- Leave, including special and maternity leave
- Flexible work arrangements
- Child care
We will also assess the adequacy of the current policies.
Paid Special Leave
This is especially important for families who have a child with a chronic illness. Children who suffer from acute illness have been shown to recover more quickly if a parent can stay at home.
In terms of the law special leave on full pay is for twelve days in a calendar year and shall be granted to an employee for, inter alia, any justifiable compassionate ground.
However, the leave is only enjoyed by permanently employed staff. Those on fixed term monthly contracts who subsist from one month to the next are left out and disadvantaged, when they may very well be equally affected by such illness at home.
Paid Maternity Leave
Read all about Maternity Leave in Zimbabwe.
Read all about Breastfeeding and Work.
Flexible Work Arrangements
There is no flexible time in Zimbabwe unless you are engaged on a part-time basis. Otherwise flexible hours are not available for all workers. This is in contrast to European countries such as Norway, where parents have the right to ask for part-time flexible hours.
Participation of mothers in the labour force necessarily requires out-of-home care for children. However, private child care centers in Zimbabwe are expensive and employees who are in a low-income bracket can usually not afford the high cost of child care. But government support for day care is providing a dramatic –and positive - change in the way children are taken care of.
In 2005 the government came up with a policy for primary schools to establish at least one class of Early Childhood Development (ECD) under the Early Childhood Education and Care programme (ECEC). Under the programme, it is mandatory that all infants attend preschool in the year or two before “official” school entry, at a level known as zero grade.
One of the reasons behind the policy is to enable ordinary working parents avoid the high fees in private ECD centres, while still making sure their children are cared for.
Working parents have welcomed the policy as it means that their children have the chance to receive meaningful, guided development and grooming for school.
Such pre-schools aim to provide care for children, educate them and foster their development into responsible individuals with good communication skills.
However, more needs to be done in this area as there is need to train more ECD teachers, provide play and arts material, appropriate sanitary facilities and attend to health and nutrition aspects.
Find out more about Women and Work in Zimbabwe.