By Judith Gicobi
As demand for the service increases, several childcare providers in Nairobi are gradually starting to accept children for overnight stays.
You won’t stumble over a poster for a night daycare, but it does happen, almost invisibly.
The capital’s growing number of working single parents who want to hire caregivers for after-school programs has boosted the silent industry.
For a city with over 4 million residents, nearly 300,000 of whom are children under the age of four, the bubble is not overstated.
Many are working parents and single mothers, including Winnie Musonye, a longtime client of these night services and a mum to a lovely two-year-old baby girl.
Ms. Musonye commutes roughly 30 kilometers daily to and from her job at a major hotel in Nairobi.
She explains that because of how rigorous her daily job schedule is, she rarely has the opportunity to spend as much time with her daughter as she would like.
“There are days when I work through the night, only returning home in the morning, it’s that demanding,” she says.
“I pay Sh200 per night to the daycare operator, but I also pack food and clean drinking water for the child, and a few clothes in case she needs to change,” she says.
The owner of the daycare where Musonye is a regular client, Madam Sarah, argues that managing a 24-hour daycare is not easy.
“There are times when a parent can leave behind a child for three straight days, without telling you in advance. This can affect your work and plans especially if it’s a small child who needs a lot of attention,” says Sarah.
She adds: “Most of my customers are single women in the corporate fields, women who travel a lot for work; seminars, retreats and have no house helps at home to take care of their children for them when they are away.”
Anyone who intends to leave a child behind for over the night must fill out a particular form with their contact information, including phone number and name.
“It is helpful that I operate in my estate, and my customers are mostly people I already know, or are referred to me by our other customers,” says Sarah.
Sarah added that she knows several daycare providers that give night services, frequently in their own homes.
According to a recent mapping project, Nairobi has approximately 2,700 informal daycares. Since many are not registered with the Kenyan government, the sector’s invisibility continues to be a mystery.