Shelleng’s Toddlers’ Place, Succour For Working Mothers
THE Federal Capital Territory is a growing cosmopolitan community, with many middle-class mothers juggling affairs of the home with that of the workplace. Sometimes, they need special care for children while they attend to official matters. Childcare centres are springing up around the city to provide that special service.
One of such places is ‘Ingenious Toddlers’ Daycare’, where Jummai Shelleng is CEO. At a first encounter with her, one cannot but notice the striking fact that despite her young age, she seems to have charted a course for herself in life. A sociology graduate from the Bayero University, Kano, and married to a Katsina born man, 35-year-old Jummai is already beginning to carve a niche for herself in the business world.
Doggedly pursuing a lifelong dream, she ventured into the establishment of a first-class Daycare centre in a serene environment in the heart of Abuja. In a bid to ease the stress of working class mothers, Jummai decided to set up the toddlers’ Daycare.
The ambiance around the care centre is peaceful and attractive. According to Jummai, the idea is to give every child a comfortable, home-away-from-home experience.
“With the current situation in Nigeria and indeed globally, where women need to work to support the family, mothers are always in a dilemma on where to keep their babies when their three-month maternity leave expires. Especially with all the ugly tales of house maids maltreating children put in their care, parents cannot be too careful with regards to the care of their children,” she says.
But with Jummai’s toddlers Daycare, such women’s fears have been addressed, as the centre accommodates toddlers from three months. She explained that mothers are allowed to breeze in during their lunch hours to spend some time with their children and wards.
“We have made provisions for mothers to come and be with their children for some times during office hours. We are opened 12 hours, which means parents can bring in their children from 7am and pick them at 7pm. Because we appreciate the fact that no mother would be comfortable leaving her baby for that long, we encourage them to come in and see their wards in between,” she said.
Due to the prevailing harsh economic situation in Nigeria, it is not unusual to find citizens delving into unfamiliar areas just to keep body and soul together. But not so for Jummai, who though was able to secure an appointment after the mandatory Youth Service, decided to fore-go paid employment and follow her heart to pursue education entrepreneurship, which has always been her passion. For her, taking care of other people’s children has always been her one desire.
On the effect early detachment of babies from their mothers could have on the former, when they grow up and the larger society, Jummai explained that her outfit has endeavoured to put structures on ground to address the issue.
“It is unfortunately the situation we now find ourselves. But the reality is that mothers have to work and they cannot take their babies with them to their work places. So, an alternative home has to be put in place for the children. And that is why we try to make this place be as comfortable as home for them, so that they can have a near- home experience. We have individual sleeping cot for each of them because we try as much as possible not to mix their things up. We particularly don’t want an outbreak of any disease. Children are very vulnerable and they tend to catch diseases quickly and most children’s ailments are contagious and we don’t want that to happen. So, what we do is label all their things individually, such that child A’s spoon would not be used for child B,” she explained.
At Jummai’s Daycare, nannies are engaged to care for the babies and one nanny is assigned to four children with the belief that a nanny should be able to conveniently handle four children. Also on her payroll is a full-fledged nurse, who can quickly attend to the children in case of any emergency aside other teaching staff and caregivers that see to the feeding and general comfort of the children.
On the location of the daycare, Shelleng said the presence of the defence Headquarters is a plus.
“Parents are more relaxed leaving their children here, knowing that they are covered by the heavy presence of the military around the area. Our location is a plus for us. Parents have more sense of safety because these military offices are here. In fact, people cannot stand anywhere along the road for 10 seconds without a military officer inquiring to know what their mission was. So we are happy and feel safe. At least, security is not one of the things parents would be agitated about when they leave their children with us,” she says.
Presently, Jummai has just nine children under her care, even though the centre has the capacity to cater for 30 children.
“We don’t intend taking more than 30 children except of course in the near future, when the centre is able to expand in order to be able to accommodate more children. For me, handling children is not a big deal,” she says.
Herself a mother of two boys, Jummai says each child in the centre is treated individually.
“For instance, if a child does not feel like sleeping during the time earmarked for siesta maybe because such child slept all night, instead of forcing or sedating him/her to sleep like is the practice in some Daycare centres, we would rather engage the child in other activities until he/she feels like sleeping naturally.
“And this is why we have so many activities lined up for them. The period for siesta is not sacrosanct. If a nine-month-old baby had played all night and so falls asleep almost immediately, the mother dropped him/her off, there is nothing we can do than to put him in his cot and allow him to sleep. But you can be sure that that child is likely to be wide awake, when the time for siesta comes and so we allow him to play.
“We also encourage parents to confide in us, if their children have any health issue so that we can know what to do should something occur later. Besides, we don’t want a situation, where some ailment from one child is transferred to another. So, a child’s medical history is very important to us”.
On her motivation, she said: “a woman needs to work to support her husband and that is why in considering working mothers’ plight, we established this place to, at least, put their minds at rest, as well as provide genuine care for their children. We don’t want a situation where they will miss their homes too much. This is a home from home and we try to bring out the ingenuity in every child that passes through us.
On the need to pay attention to every child, she said:
“Children differ and that is why we don’t restrict them to reading books and learning alone. We closely monitor and observe them to see what innate abilities they possess in order to bring such out. Children have different potentials and they grow at different paces. Two children of the same age won’t behave the same way, so we try to treat them differently such that by the time they are ready to go into the mainstream schools, we are sure they are ready to take up the challenges their peers elsewhere may even be able to grapple with.”
For Jummai, aside from contributing her quota to the nation’s development and her family’s financial wellbeing, she says identifying early in life what she wants and going ahead to actualise her dream is a wakeup call to other young entrepreneurs desiring to try their hands on some profitable ventures. And with a supportive husband by her side, she said she is ready to rule her world.