The new coronavirus pandemic will mean that, for the first time since it started to be monitored, there is a line for daycare centers in São Paulo at the end of 2020. More recent figures, to which Estadão had access, indicate that there have never been so few students waiting for a place at this time of year. Mothers stopped seeking care because the units have been closed since March. In 2021, however, the elected mayor will have to prepare the municipal network for an atypical movement, which should make the queue grow again.
It is estimated that 50,000 children will be able to seek vacancies next year, but due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, it is not possible to predict when and if, in fact, this will happen. Private early childhood schools closed and the population was impoverished with the crisis, something that can affect demand.
According to experts, it is difficult to know when families will feel safe to take babies to daycare centers, since children are only required by law to attend school from the age of 4. According to the State Prosecutor’s Office, the City Hall has an obligation to seek out parents who are not in the school system to find out the children’s situation.
According to official City Hall data, in September there were 6,670 babies under 4 years of age in the queue. In general, this time of year records the peak of requests for places, with more than 70 thousand children. Due to the low amount, at the end of the year, all of them must be enrolled only by filling the surplus of vacancies for those who will leave the daycare centers for early childhood schools because of their age. In December, 111,000 4-year-olds will leave daycare centers.
An example is the district of the city with the highest demand, Jardim São Luís, from the education board of Campo Limpo, in the south zone. Today, there are 981 children in the queue and 7,000 enrolled in daycare centers, which will continue in 2021. As others will have gone to pre-school, there will be 1,700 vacancies to serve the 981 in line, from 1 to 3 years old. Adding care for babies under 1 year old (who are not in line yet), there will be 2,037 vacancies in January.
Karoline Selmini, 23, has a 4-month-old baby and has returned to work as a day laborer. The son stayed with the neighbor. “I was afraid to put him in the nursery because of the pandemic and they told me they were not enrolling,” says she, who lives in Jardim Etelvina, on the east side. The City Hall is receiving applications via the Internet even with schools closed. In the Guaianases region, which includes the neighborhood where Karoline lives, there were only two children in line in September.
Amanda Lenharo di Santis, 34, took her daughter Catarina, 2, from a private school during the pandemic for financial reasons and wants a place in the public daycare, but “only after the vaccine”. She is working from home and can take care of the girl. “I’m going to look at the numbers of infected people in the city to decide the right time.” There are six children in the queue in the Ipiranga region, where she lives.
“Students will come back, we just can’t predict when, and they will potentially come back in greater demand,” says the executive president of Todos Pela Educação, Priscila Cruz. According to prosecutor João Paulo Faustinoni e Silva, from the Special Education Action Group of the MPE, the very low demand this year because of the pandemic should be a cause for concern as well. “The City needs to make an active search and make sure that these children are being well assisted, if they are not in irregular institutions.”
The Municipal Secretary of Education, Bruno Caetano, affirms that as of Monday about a thousand employees will go to the ten poorest districts of the city to analyze the situation of the students of the municipal network and also of those who are not registered yet. “The difficult thing now is not to zero the queue, but to remain zero”, he says.
Today, there are 368,000 enrolled in daycare centers in the capital. This year, 20 thousand new vacancies were created. But in 2021, according to the secretariat, the demand should be more than 50 thousand. Among the measures of this management is school transport so that children can be moved to units up to 5 kilometers away.
Caetano also says that at the beginning of the year, the chain will have to deal with idleness in daycare centers, which creates a management problem because they receive per enrolled child. The City is studying a way to transfer a fixed amount so that the units can maintain themselves even with few students.
For Beatriz Abuchaim, from the Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation, the situation may even help, because it facilitates the distance and the implementation of health protocols. “This period of the first months of the new government will be challenging because it will have to organize itself for this demand, it is another way of working.” And yet, for her, zeroing the queue is not enough. “It is necessary to see the quality of the education that is being offered.”
Since 2012, when there was an agreement between City Hall and Justice, about 154 thousand daycare places were created in the city. Current management is committed to making 85,000 new registrations by December, which, he says, has practically been achieved. The Public Ministry, however, asked for explanations about enrollments made this year, but that would only be for 2021. According to secretary Bruno Caetano, the vacancies already exist and could be used as soon as the daycare centers decide to reopen. The City Hall authorized the return of classroom activities this month, but only 15 municipal schools returned.
The city today has about 10,000 enrollments described as “in process” by the City Hall, which include pending documentation or day care centers not yet completed. Even adding this number to the queue, it would be possible to end the wait for daycare because of the vacancies that will open next year. But, according to Caetano, there are 98 new units, some under renovation, for these students. An ordinance allows the secretariat to register 80% of the works carried out. The information is from the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo.
Copyright © Estadão. All rights reserved.