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HN: Many children fail to turn up in kindergarten

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Prague, Sept 6 (CTK) – Czech authorities have been addressing thousands of families whose children failed to turn up in kindergarten this week, though a new law makes kindergarten attendance compulsory for children in the year preceding their elementary school entry, Hospodarske noviny (HN) wrote on Wednesday.

It gives the example of Most, a north Bohemian town with a strong Roma minority, where as many as 110 children out of 633 at the pre-school age of 5-6 failed to turn up in a kindergarten.

In Karlovy Vary, the centre of northwest Bohemia, kindergartens miss 90 out of a total of 444 children at the relevant age, while 727 out of 4,000 are missing in kindergartens in the Moravian capital Brno, the daily writes.

The Education Ministry and the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry differ on which of them should search for the children who are missing in kindergartens.

The latter ministry says it is up to individual municipalities to tackle the problem. If they suspect a child neglect case, they should report it to the authority for the social and legal protection of children (OSPOD).

The Education Ministry, nevertheless, said a decision on the OSPOD’s involvement in tackling this kind of misdemeanour is yet to be made, the daily writes.

Towns have taken each its own approach. Brno is waiting for binding instructions from the ministries. The Karlovy Vary town hall has sent letters to the parents concerned.

“Out of the 90 unregistered children, 18 have turned up. In some case, we found out that the child is staying abroad or has moved out of Karlovy Vary,” the town hall’s spokesman is quoted as saying.

In Most, the authorities have been searching for the parents in their homes. However, many of them do not stay in their official place of residence.

“If so, we have a scarce chance [of contacting them over their offspring’s kindergarten entry],” Petr Baranak, from the Most town hall, is quoted as saying.

The compulsory pre-school education was pushed through by the senior ruling Social Democrats (CSSD) as a measure to prevent children, mainly from socially deprived localities, from entering the elementary school unprepared, the paper writes.

Experts differ on whether one year of compulsory pre-school education is adequate.

“I am afraid that one year will not be enough, though it mainly depends on whether the parents cooperate [with the kindergarten]…It is nearly no use [for a kindergarten] to define the rules of behaviour for a child if the child faces no such rules at home,” said Vera Richterova, head of a kindergarten in Most, who has been visiting the families concerned to remind the parents of their duty stemming from the new law.

She said some parents have told her that they cannot afford to pay for their children’s catering in the kindergarten.

However, the children have to lunch at lunchtime unless being picked earlier by their parents. Children have to spend four hours a day in the kindergarten at least, Richterova said.

The parents who fail to register their offspring in a kindergarten face a fine of up to 5,000 crowns, which should be exacted by the town hall, HN writes.

If the parents do not want to send their child to a kindergarten, they do not have to, but they have to register the child in a kindergarten. Next autumn, such children must turn up there for experts to test their preparedness for elementary school attendance, the paper adds.

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