Budget 2024: Give bigger provision for childhood education sector, says association


Maraini Jaafar

BINTULU (Sept 30): Childcare providers in Sarawak hope that the Budget 2024 would provide sufficient funds and resources for the country’s early childhood care and education (ECCE) sector.

Persatuan Pengasuh dan Pendidik Awal Kanak-Kanak Bintulu (PAKB) chairperson Maraini Jaafar says this is crucial especially for childcare centres catering for middle- and low-income families.

“With bigger allocations and subsidies, these will provide teachers a decent minimum wage, better facilities for children, as well as support for young parents,” said Maraini, who owns Taska Permata Kasih and Taska Penyayang Mama.

“The Singapore government can serve as a role model for a good quality of early childhood care and education,” she added, citing the republic’s systemic improvements in its pre-school education, especially in government funding and strategic policy development.

On the government’s childcare fee subsidy, she stressed the need for subsidy eligibility conditions to be reviewed and for the amount of subsidy to also commensurate with the rising cost of living.

“This childcare fee subsidy ought to be raised from the current RM180 to RM250, and also be extended to all citizens,” she said.

The Early Schooling Aid, Maraini said, should also be increased from RM150 to RM200.

“Under the early childcare assistance, a rebate of RM200 ought to be given to parents with a minimum of two children enrolled in a registered childcare centre.

“The government can also give special incentives to parents in the form of coupons or vouchers to help them in the purchase of milk and diapers.”

Adding on, she believed that childcare centres and kindergartens should also benefit from this budget allocation for the quality enhancement of early childhood education sector.

“The grants or subsidies for these operators can be utilised for the upgrading of amenities, such as the installation of closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs),” she pointed out.

She said the government could be more effective by allocating specific funds for childcare centres and kindergarten operators, such as for facility upgrading; provision of nutritious food; staff training; and additional subsidies for centres with special needs children.

“The additional subsidies for centres with special needs children are crucial in order for the operators to hire trained teachers to help the children with special needs,” said Maraini, adding its importance to achieve the zero-reject policy for children with special needs.

Meanwhile, on a personal note like any other Malaysian citizens, she expressed her hope that the government would continue to keep rising prices in check so as not to burden the people.