Public kindergartens are still unable to meet demand

Photo: Arnošt Máče

Although the short baby boom in the Czech Republic ended around 2010, parents are still having problems enrolling their children in kindergartens. Public institutions for pre-school have not been meeting the demand for a few years now, so some employers are coming up with their own solutions to help their staff members return to work from maternity leave.

Photo: Arnošt Máče
The beginning of the school year this week brings disappointment to a few thousand mothers around the Czech Republic who were hoping to return to the workplace and leave their preschoolers in the care of professionals. Although official statistics claim that public education was provided to more than 97% of the 3-5 year olds, the reality in some school districts, especially for parents with younger children, is different.

In the whole country, around 60,000 children who applied did not get into public kindergartens this year. Parents in Brno have had the toughest time, with more than 55% of applying children having been denied a place. Sabina Tomíšková, mayor of the Brno-north district, which had only a 40% acceptance rate this year, says there is not much that can be done:

“Since Brno-north and Brno-center are two city districts with the biggest population, it’s logical that our statistics are also the highest. Our main goal for now is to find a place for all the 3-year olds, not the younger children.”

Photo: Jaroslava Mannová
The district is planning to open another kindergarten in the next few months for around 100 kids, which will still leave some 350 out of the classroom.

This situation leaves parents with few options: placing their children in a private kindergarten, hiring a nanny, or for one of the caregivers – in the vast majority of cases the mother – to stay at home for at least another year. With private kindergarten fees ranging between four and 20 thousand crowns a month, many parents simply cannot afford this option. And family budgets still often suffer with one parent out of work.

A small minority of employers have begun opening in-house daycare centers, to encourage caregivers’ earlier return to the workplace. Recently, universities have also joined this trend. The Technical University in Ostrava welcomed the first children of their staff and students this week to a new on-campus kindergarten. For the dean of the university, Ivo Vondrák, this is one way to become an attractive employer for young talent.

Ivo Vondrák,  photo: archive of the Technical University in Ostrava
“We have many young people here working on scientific projects and it is often a problem for them to take care of their young children and keep working. We don’t want to lose them, so we’ve decided to provide this service. This year we are even offering our kindergarten service for free, thanks to support from EU Operational Funds.”

Experts say that the shortage of places in public kindergartens in the most populous districts will last for another three to four years. For now, though, many mothers will have to rely on their own or their employers’ ingenuity if they want to return to the workplace within two years of giving birth.