by Guki Giunashvili, photos by Guki Giunashvili
Last week, on April the 6th, Aarhus Rådhuspladsen was filled with parents and their young children in strollers, waving banners and shouting demands. Here and in other 58 Danish towns, people took part in the demonstration to express frustration regarding the current Danish child-care system and demanded an increased number of caretakers at the kindergartens. They believe that the government has the financial resources, but not the political will to do so.
Sophie Mogensen is one of the main initiators behind the public movement, which started as a social media group over a month ago but quickly gained 30 000 followers. She and 20 other parents decided to organize the demonstrations around the country to demand more commitment to the issues related to young children’s well-being: “We demand more hands in our children’s kindergartens. We demand that there is more focus, more priorities to our children; That they get the best care and the attention; that they are being listened to; That they are not just left out in the corner until the parent comes to pick them up,” – says Sophie Mogensen.
The new data resonates with parents concerns. The National Association of Child and Youth Pedagogues (Børne- og UngdomsPædagogernes Landsforbund – BUPL) recently conducted research among its members. According to the study, 66% of the teachers have experience of being alone with children, meaning that they had to take care of the group of children all by themselves. Meanwhile, 64% of educators say, that they cannot take sufficient care of the children due to the staff shortages. Moreover, a total of 81% of educators have found that there were too few employees in relation to the work tasks.
This information isn’t new for the employees of those institutions. Kindergarten workers in Denmark have protested before. They have been talking about the increased pressure at the workplace: “But parents haven’t really been listening or actually understood what they were fighting for because it looks like, everything is okay,” – says Sophie Mogensen.
However, attitudes in the parents have changed since March. DR’s documentary released last month described the current situation in different kindergartens, where only 2-3 adults have to manage the whole group of children. In the film, the educators talk about the challenges they face and the viewers can see how children spend time in day-care. This new information triggered a wave of protest among parents.
Martin Erglaard joined the demonstration with his little girl. He is satisfied with the conditions at his child’s kindergarten, but there are hundreds of others who don’t feel the same way and he thinks that supporting each other is important in these times. He is worried about the consequences that the current situation might have:
“It is a shame. When I leave my kid there, I want to be sure that she is taken care of and people have enough time for her. When there is not enough help, then there is too much noise, because kids can’t manage themselves, right? And that’s not good for their development. It might cost more money now, but it will cost even more if they get sick,” – says Erglaqard.
Parents at the demonstration talked about the possible difficulties that their children might have to deal with if they don’t get enough attention. And the child psycho-neurologist Nana Krusse validates their fears. According to her, years spent in childcare is vital for the kids’ mental well-being. Children need adults attention to gain the right social skills.
“There are many basic needs that children have to develop better. As the child psychologist, I see so many children at this point who in fact, have a normal level of intelligence, good parents but they don’t manage to do well. They have anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD – because they feel the lack of care and attention. If there won’t be enough adults in the institutions that will affect their development in the future,” – says Nana Krusse.
Group of university students also supported the parents and their demands. Nete Kofod Andreasen, a student of the Social Education program joined the demonstration with her fellow students. They believe that it’s an important cause and people, especially politicians must be aware of the influences that lack of care can have on children.
“We give them a wakeup call, that there should more money in children’s area,” – says Nete Andersen.
According to the event organizers, protests will continue until their demands are met.
“Money is there and they should take it seriously. If they don’t do it after today, after the protest in 59 cities, then we will continue to fight so, our children now and in the future get the best care in kindergarten,”- says Sophie Mogensen.
The demonstration lasted for a couple of hours in front of the Aarhus City Hall. It ended with the musical performance for the children.