CHILD CARE IN AFRICA – AN INSIGHT AT CHILD NANNIES:
A NIGERIAN CASE STUDY
Cambridge dictionary defines Child care as care for children provided by either the government, an organization, or a person, while parents are at work or are absent for another reason. The parents can comfortably leave their kids at a designated shelter/creche while they focus on making their livelihood with little interference in their professional lives. The 21st century has seen voices for increased support to women so they don’t feel they have to choose between their children and their jobs, and important strides were achieved to enable the working mother feel comfortable with her job and her decision to have a family. Companies now offer more flexible working time to working mothers, remote working, and so many more solutions have been deployed to address these issue.
Sadly in Africa, companies are either playing catch up to the rest of the world or deliberately exploiting their female employees (working mothers). Demand outweighs supply in the workforce, so we have most females working with an inherent notion they might have to quit their jobs the moment they decide to start a family.
It is noteworthy to mention it hasn’t been all gloom for females and working mothers as some organizations have modified their policies to give the women extended maternity leave, some have also adopted the flexible work time approach. More is still required in this regard to give women the appropriate time to ensure proper care is given to their children.
Due to the struggle by most women to secure their jobs and also provide care to their children, and lack of appropriate creche/shelter they can put their kids while away at work from the government, most families in Africa subject themselves to employing informal child care givers to assist them in providing care for their children and other miscellaneous duties as deemed fit by the employer.
INFORMAL CHILD CARE AND CHILD NANNIES
Informal care can be defined as any private arrangement provided in a family environment, whereby the child is looked after on an ongoing or indefinite basis by relatives or friends or by others in their individual capacity, at the initiative of the child, his or her parents or other person without this arrangement having been ordered by an administrative or judicial authority or a duly accredited body (I.Milligan, R.Withington, G.Connelly, C.Gale; 2016)
The challenging clime employees find themselves in Africa requires most families to source for an extra help in taking care of their children at the early stage, or the woman in most cases, sacrifices her professional career for this. Sourcing for this care for the children comes at a cost which very few families can adequately afford, and many are left to look for an alternative or informal child care to meet their needs.
Some families source for assistance from distant relatives by accommodating a family member who will stay in to take of the children while the parents are away at work. A general review however shows most families, especially middle income earners in Africa, get illegal child-nannies to stay in and take care of their children while the parents are not home. A thought process quite similar to having Nana (a dog) take care of the children in J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan.
Most of these middle income families are just barely getting by, and the thought of having a family member living with them as a dependent isn’t one they readily entertain. Some families will also point to the reduced privacy among their extended family members if they have a member of the extended family member living with them as a reason to source for an illegal child nanny.
It should however be pointed out while most families source for these child nannies, they are under the illusion their actions are transactional and legal. Ignorance of the law is however not an excuse to condone these abhorrent acts continually perpetrated in the continent.