Investing in the future

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photo: Anteneh Aklilu

For many years nannies have been hired by Ethiopian families without having the proper training to care for babies.  Many daycare centers also use untrained adolescent girls who mostly come from rural areas. Many studies show children who get proper care in their childhood become successful later in life. After observing untrained nannies in the  country and being unsatisfied with the quality of care when he was raising his first son, Solomon Mulugeta, established Eshururu Training Center which provides  three months of training for women on how to care babies until they can manage themselves, in feeding, dressing, and protecting their health. He has trained more than 9,000 nannies who go on to work in daycare and homes. Currently he is working to train an additional 6,000 nannies to provide more opportunities for women and families. Capital’s Tesfaye Getnet talked with Solmon Mulugeta, founder and managing director of Eshururu Training Center to learn why this is such a vital service.

Capital: What makes a trained nanny necessary especially when so many hire people without training?

Solomon Mulugeta: Let me begin with a story. A couple of years ago, a man called me after listening to one of my interviews. He told me his child had fallen down but the nanny he hired didn’t tell him what had happened. A few years later the child began experiencing severe spinal pain. They had to travel to Europe for treatment and they ended up spending over 60,000 Euro. The man told me that if had hired a trained nanny his child might not have fallen. Untrained nannies can lead to health and other problems.  If you look at some studies, many mothers become less efficient in the work place after they have a child, the main reason is that they do not give their full attention to their work because their baby takes up a lot of their attention. However, if you provide them with trained nannies for their children you can reduce their worry and stress which helps them work more efficiently.

Capital: Are children in Ethiopia getting care by trained nannies?   

Solomon: There is slight progress but not that much. The only nanny training center that works in Ethiopia is ours. However, millions of babies are born every year in Ethiopia so there is a huge need and  we need more schools to open. Many families don’t see the need for a trained nannies and just hire adolescent girls from the countryside to take care of their children. This is not the best idea because caring for a child is not a simple job like lifting a stone from the ground. It is a job which requires proper trainings. They have make sure they get proper sleep, change their diaper and understand their psychology.

photo: Anteneh Aklilu
photo: Anteneh Aklilu

Capital: What challenges did you face when you started the nanny training center?

Solomon: When we started the trainings there was a vision and a potential but we expected big challenges. We knew it would be hard to convince people since new ideas are not easy to penetrate in the society.  We wasted a lot of time convincing potential students that this would help them get a better salary.  the other challenges to convince find families who need trained nannies. But the nannies we brought from our center passionately love children. When the public saw the difference in how their children were treated the public saw the benefits of training. With the support of  the International Migration Organization in Debre Birhan  we trained more than 400 women who returned from the Middle East, which shows that this can work outside Addis as well.   Our current challenge is having a limited amount of space to train nannies.  More training centers should open we alone can not fulfil this demand.

Capital: Do the nannies who come for training want to improve their skills or are they trying to get a better salary?

Solomon: Before we go in to formal training we ask them why they chose the nanny profession. After that we give them awareness about why taking care of a child requires a great deal of attention. Then the courses focus on how to work, how to take care of the baby’s health, psychology, playing ,washing, feeding and sleeping via the scientific  method. The coursework consists of 30 percent theory and 70 percent practical work carried out in daycare centers.

Capital: Why don’t you train men?

Solomon: It is a long tradition that women have a better capacity to care for a child but we give training for men in laundry and housekeeping.

Capital: Since many nannies come from rural areas and speak other languages do you plan to offer training only in Amharic?  

Solomon: We are currently developing an Oromiffia instruction book and will teach in Ormoiffa so we can serve more students.

Capital: There are many daycare centers opening in Addis Ababa do they have trained nannies?
Solomon: Less than three percent of  daycare centers in Addis are working with trained nannies and the rest are not. If you check many of daycare centers in Addis, you find nannies who know nothing about taking  care of children.  Some of them shout at the child when they need the child to sleep. There is no  classified room for the different aged children they play and sleep together, so we have to ask ourselves what the  city health and education bureau are doing to supervise the daycare centers when they are working with untrained nannies?

Capital:  Trained nannies ask for higher salaries around 2,500 birr is this affordable to the average family?  

photo: Anteneh Aklilu
photo: Anteneh Aklilu

Solomon: To your surprise some trained nannies form our center get up to 4,500 birr per month but the question we have to ask ourselves how much do we want to invest in our children? We have trained over 9,000 nannies no parents have complained about their pay.  How much they make is really between the parents and the nanny we don’t get involved but bear in mind that paying more salary and investing in training means investing in the child.

Capital:  What is the 50×116 project?

Solomon: We plan to train 50 women in all 116 werdas of Addis Ababa in total we will train 5,800 poor  women. Our motivation for this project is to provide job opportunities for women and to serve more families with trained nannies.  In total the project requires 40 million birr. Some NGO’s want to work with us. We will announce this to the public when we are ready to launch.

Capital: What can the government do to help nannies gain more skills?

Solomon: The government has opened day care centers which is a good first step but to improve the private sector should be enabled to open more nanny training centers and a curriculum should be developed.