Opinion: Happy country, sad children – The Post

Opinion: Happy country, sad children

The classes are getting larger and larger (photo: US Department of Defense)
June 1st, 2019 12:52 pm| by Laura Kelemen

A harrowing new TV2 documentary uses hidden cameras to expose the neglect that is becoming an all-too frequent occurrence at the nation’s nurseries and kindergartens.

Employees are shown to be disinterested in the discomfort of their young charges as they set about their daily duties.

READ MORE: Daycare under the magnifying glass in Copenhagen

In April, parents across Denmark took to the streets to protest at the current shortage of pedagogues – numbers have been in freefall since the 1980s – and just last week a report revealed there are concerns about standards at 40 percent of the capital region’s institutions and serious concerns at over 5 percent of them.


For Laura Kelemen, the author of the blog Lolkalilleby, the findings are not that surprising and a wake-up call for urgent action:

This is an upsetting subject that I wasn’t going to write about, but I can no longer ignore the sorrow that in today’s Denmark our children have to suffer such bad circumstances in some of the nation’s daycare institutions.

A video came to light about a month ago that showed our children in daycare not getting attention, not getting the care they need, not getting their diapers changed and so on – the list is endless. We demonstrated, but nothing really happened or changed.

A good day doesn’t involve hospital
Today comes a new film about life in daycare. The material was shot with secret cameras by a pedagogue who is also a journalist. Needless to say that just like everyone I am also shocked about the footage I’ve seen so far, and I am not even sure I will be able to see the rest.

There is no time for our children; there is no time to feed them, change them, dress them. There is no time for hugs, comfort, let alone quality time. It is the norm that you don’t know what happens to your child during the day: you don’t know why their head is swollen or why they have some injuries. You don’t get a call if they get injured, unless it’s considered very bad.

Then you pick them up and hear they had a good day. The only thing telling you something was off is the set of wet clothes, small injuries, wounds, a red butt that was okay in the morning, and a toddler who is acting up. I am over crying, and I want to act, but what do I do?

Hardly a key election issue, is it?
One of the worse rated institutions is where my son goes. It was actually supposed to be one of the very best ones in our area. The first day I delivered him, I felt like he was not going to be fine there; I was surprised and suspicious about many things, although the employees were very nice. I forced myself to believe that I’m too much, that I’m from another country, and maybe we are more sensitive; people also told me that I make too big of a deal and this is the way we raise children in Denmark.

But is it too big of a deal now? Is it okay to call a 14-month-old an egoist? Is it okay to let them cry and refuse adult contact, to call them spoiled for showing emotions? This doesn’t equate with raising them with a free mindset.

When it comes to this point, I, as a parent, would like to blame someone, but who? The pedagogue who is alone with 15 children during the afternoon? The leader who doesn’t even have the resources to pay a meagre wage to her employees? Myself for delivering him? My boyfriend for not earning enough so I could stay home with him, even though we live in a world in which a family can rarely can live off one paycheck. Our politicians for conducting an election campaign right now, in which nobody is prioritising this cause?

We’re raising the next generation, after all
I like the employees at my son’s daycare; we have a good relationship and I’m thankful they give their best every day. Because this is a dedication: you choose to raise and teach future generations and form the views, beliefs and behaviour of our world. Isn’t this worth investment? Because our future politicians, our future climate activists, our future scientists …. our whole future is sitting in daycare right now with people who have no time to tell them about the world, and with people who have limited time for personal or emotional interaction.

This is a country that most of the world thinks of as a happy place, with rich potential, a good economy, and a good social and healthcare system. It’s a country where people are comfortable and safe, but our future is suffering. Right now Denmark is depriving the generation it will have to count on in 20 years’ time. It’s a clear choice to save money and turn our backs on our own children.

Is this really one of the best places to live in the world? Can we not do better? Should we ask our children if they are as happy and as satisfied as it says in all the findings about this happy country?

What can we do? How can we give a voice to them who cannot talk yet? We hear them but we don’t listen, and now is the time to act for those who cannot act for themselves.

Keep in mind that these are examples of extreme cases and it is not necessarily true for your institution. On the other hand be aware that this can happen to any of us and we can only bring about change together!

Laura Kelemen


The author of this opinion piece, Laura Kelemen, writes the blog ‘Lolkalilleby

For details of demonstrations tomorrow (Sunday June 2), please visit the Hvorerderenvoksen Facebook page.