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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Home Alone

Nannies and home tutors not yet regulated by law
8 February, 2005 - 00:00

Contrary to expectations, the situation in the nanny and home tutor market could not be regulated last year. A list of innovative enactments adopted in 2004 (proclaimed the Year of the Family) did not include the required one, although the idea for a law on tutors had been in the offing since May. But the deadline for submitting the bill was postponed and in the end the issue of nannies and home tutors was forgotten.

The Ministry of Family Affairs said attention must be focused on the issue of nannies for at least two reasons: (a) to support working parents and (b) to create adequate conditions for raising children. The second point is what caused the most concern. Polls conducted by the State Institute for Family and Youth Problems indicate that Ukrainian parents spend an average of 8-14 hours a week communicating with their children. Divided by seven days, that makes two hours a day.

Not surprisingly, the market demand for nannies and home tutors has noticeably increased. In Ukraine, parents traditionally rely on relatives and close friends, but those who have tried this route say it’s the most troublesome option. Few people can transfer family relationships to the client-employee sphere. In addition, a relative-cum-nanny is the most likely to leak family secrets. People at domestic employment agencies say that parents who have sought the help of relatives most often end up in their offices. It is also true that there are not many agencies in the Ukrainian market that can guarantee quality domestic help. Ideally, for a certain fee, they will provide a nanny/tutor who meets all the customer’s requirements, including modern teaching methods, the right age, even hair color (strange as it may seem, the latter requirement often figures among the customer’s specifications). A nanny must also have a duly certified clean bill of health and references from previous employers.

Still, the delicate business of raising children is never problem- free. Even top-notch nannies admit that sometimes they can’t get along with parents. Occasionally, resourceful children take advantage of the market relationships among the adults and resort to blackmail. “Buy me a chocolate or I’ll tell mom and dad you’re a bad nanny.” Customers also often complain about nannies who try to change the family’s lifestyle to their own taste, claiming the parents are feeding their children the wrong kind of diet or they’re not bringing them up according to the parenting manuals. In reality, such mutual disappointments are easily explained. According to the Classification of Occupations, a home tutor is listed as “domestic employment,” says Maryna Mashovets, head of the Faculty of Preschool Education at Drahomanov National Pedagogical University.” At the same time, pedagogy implies partner-like relations, and mutual respect is necessary for an effective educational process.”

Another reason is the professional level of nannies and home tutors. In Ukraine they are traditionally inexperienced students or women approaching retirement, who are convinced that teaching children at home doesn’t require any special qualifications. In Great Britain, a nanny has to take a two- year training course based on a curriculum of eighteen disciplines, including communications psychology. Even though domestic employment agencies in Ukraine subject applicants to countless tests, psychologists believe their approach is too formal. According to Oleksandr Hubenko, editor-in-chief of the journal Praktychna psykholohiya i sotsialna robota (Practical Psychology and Social Work), nannies and home tutors have extremely responsible functions. They must make up for the parents’ lack of pedagogical culture and serve as models for the children. So a nanny’s lack of teaching abilities or tact, or the presence of any psychological problems, will have a very negative effect on her charges. Oleksandr Hubenko believes that Ukraine must have a licensing system for home tutors, so they can be certified and attend refresher courses.

In Ukraine, nannies with a specialized higher education are also eligible, but Maryna Mashovets says that students in her faculty at Drahomanov National Pedagogical University face countless problems in terms of putting their studies into practice — once again because of the specific nature of the tutor’s profession. In general, she believes that training tutors isn’t expedient in Ukraine; studies show that only 3-4% of young parents are prepared to subject their children to this method of education. Instead, a system of preschool institutions should be developed, which would provide supplemental teaching services, along the lines of children’s development centers where experts would deal with both children and parents, and strengthen parenting skills. Prof. Mashovets believes that this would be more convenient from both the financial and ethical points of view. “After all, parents often have doubts about the decency and professional level of tutors, often with good reason. It has also been scientifically established that one person must be in charge of educating and raising a child between the ages of 3 and 12. This, of course, complicates the personnel issue.

“Psychologists point to another important aspect; their studies show that parents must be with their children until three years of age, during the period known as self-identification. Thus, even the most professional nanny or tutor may well damage the child at this stage.

“Negative aspects of isolated family upbringing may manifest themselves at a later age. It is believed that children evolve fully only when they communicate with peers. Otherwise they may turn into selfish, withdrawn, and uncommunicative individuals. Children who spend most of their time with nannies who play with them and read stories may eventually feel more affection for them than for their own mothers. Olena Vlasova, a doctoral student at the Faculty of Social Psychology at Taras Shevchenko National University, says that much depends on the quality of family upbringing. Ideally, a tutor relays the parents’ instructions and may become a dominant factor in a child’s life only if the parents haven’t given enough care to the child. In her opinion, the best option is to combine the services of a nanny and a daycare center: “Nannies may take children from daycare centers, take them for a walk, and help them with their homework. This will help develop their ability to communicate and at the same time make them aware of the presence of another person, who sincerely cares for them.”

The time has obviously come to introduce innovative legislation relating to nannies and tutors. Despite the advantages and shortcomings, this method of bringing up children is very developed in the West. It is also characteristic of Ukraine. After all, the tutoring profession appeared during the rule of Peter I. No matter what the century, parents want to make sure their children are in good and capable hands.

By Oksana OMELCHENKO, The Day