Scandal in the barnehager

Photo: Olve Utne / Flickr. Illustration: VG.A barnehage (daycare) in Northern Norway. Upper left: VG¹s front cover

A VG report sheds light on poor conditions in Norway¹s state sponsored

daycare system

Staff Compilation

Norwegian news service VG released a comprehensive report on safety and health conditions inside Norwegian daycares on Mar. 11. The report, compiled over the course of 6 months by a special investigation team and including over 30,000 pages of information from all municipalities and nearly every kommune (county), has found some daycare centers (in Norwegian, barnehager), both public and private, to be particularly lacking.

“Every day in Norway, 300,000 children are delivered to over 6,000 Norwegian barnehager. Are they safe?” asks VG.

In total, VG has now gone through more than 4,500 inspection reports from over 3,000 kindergartens in the years 2010, 2011 and 2012. The inspections have revealed offenses in every barnehage, and fully 50% of barnehager in Norway have broken the law in some way, according to the report.

The most important breached laws include:

Inadequate physical security; careless hygiene, infection control and cleaning; failure to implement or poor security practices; inadequate educational planning; and violation of staffing requirements. In total, VG found a total of over 6,400 offenses in three years.

The report includes several stories deemed terrifying by parents, including the 2011 story of four-year-old Ingrid Marie Hansen in Tromsø, who was asphyxiated to death when she got caught in a curtain cord while playing at a barnehage.

VG discovered that one year earlier, 5-year-old Marius Kullstad had come home from a different barnehage in Tromsø ­ owned by the same private company ­ with bruises around his neck. His mother, Marita Tråsdahl Kullstad, was concerned and called the barnehage to discover what had happened; she was furious that nobody had called to inform her of the incident.

“I asked to see the room where it had happened. The playroom had long curtain cords. I asked them to cut them off,” she said. “You bring you child to barnehage to be cared for, and you expect to get her back alive and safe. The minimum requirement should be that the conditions are conducive for the children,” said Dag-Kjetil Hansen, Ingrid’s father, to VG.

Other dangerous situations discovered by VG include dangerous playground equipment, mold and mildew, and toddlers waiting in line for diaper changes. Morten Solheim, lecturer in education at the University of Oslo and Akershus, says that VG’s findings confirm that more children in Norwegian barnehager has led to a slip in quality. “So far, the “barnehage revolution” is only a half-baked reform. The rapid expansion  has weakened the quality of day care services, at the expense of the children,² said Solheim.

In an interview with VG after the release of the report, Minister of Education Kristin Halvorsen believes that there is already enough checks done for safety and staffing levels in Norwegian barnehager. “I do not think the main challenge is that too few barnehager are supervised. The main challenge is that local authorities, who own half of the barnehager, are set to make their own inspections. I think this means that the quality of the inspections is inadequate,” said Halvorsen.

Halvorsen cited a different report when confronted with VG’s, which had been ordered and paid for by the government.The report is from Nova Research and was published in 2012. Halvorsen think it shows that there is no need for more supervision of the barnehager. VG says its motivation behind the report is simply to make sure Norwegian children are living they best lives they can, and to hold the government responsible for creating safe environments in barnehager.

“After this extensive material has been brought out in public, it is our hope that our readers can contribute comments and suggestions that can make life better for Norwegian children,” wrote Torry Pedersen, editor-in-chief of VG.

“We also know that in a global context, Norwegian children are very well-off. However, this must not become an excuse for the government to avoid carrying out its responsibility: to enforce the rules and the standards they have set themselves, in a credible manner.”

This article originally appeared in the Mar. 15, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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