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To Exploit Mothers as Labor, North Korea is Reintroducing A Policy of Offering Free Preschool

Many North Koreans view childcare as a necessity, especially in the cities. But the North Korean government has attempted to assert full control over that as well.

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Children
Children attend class at Kyungsang Kindergarten in Pyongyang, North Korea. RFA

 North Korea is reintroducing a policy of offering free preschool classes to its rural citizens over a 10-day period in spring. But sources say the move is not out of benevolence—it is to prevent mothers from using their young children as an excuse to get out of being mobilized as farm labor ahead of the spring planting season.

The program, first introduced in the 1960s, has always been about the mobilization of mothers. In years past, local childcare centers were open to the public between the first and 11th day of the month that coincides with planting season.

Local markets are also closed during the same period. But most of the preschools had been shut down due to lack of funding or as a result of the widespread famine and series of economic crises between 1994 and 1998, now called the March of Suffering.

Estimates have put the death toll from starvation over the four-year period in the hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions.

Local sources told RFA’s Korean Service that the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party has ordered the reopening of the preschools this year, but many of the rural collective farms are having difficulty complying with the order because funding has not been restored.

 

“Ten-day preschool is coming back to a collective farm here in Yongchon county for the first time in 20 years. It will open later this month,” said a source from North Pyongan province.

The source said that the reason for the resumption of the program is to get the mothers of young children to do farm work. But many of the mothers who in the past have used childcare as an excuse to get out of planting were in fact working in family businesses on the sly.

“County authorities have told each town’s party committees to bring back preschools, but since there’s a lack of funds some of the farms are having difficulty with it,” the source said.

“If they are having a hard time getting oil and grease for farming tools, how are they expected to repair the crumbling preschool buildings and remodel their interiors?” said the source.

The source said that despite the difficulty, two of the preschools in the county have managed to reopen, but only because they are the most likely areas to be audited by higher authorities.

farming
“A high-ranking official at the farms told the workers that if they leave their children at the preschool, there will be deductions from their fall allotment even for the food their children eat [while there,]” the source said. Pixabay

“[Only] the preschools in Yangso-ri and Tongshin-ri [have been restored.],” said the source. Ri denotes a small village or hamlet in Korean.

“Farm laborers are concentrated in those areas and there’s also the major road connecting Pyongyang and Sinuiju running nearby, so the Central Committee can come by to inspect at a moment’s notice.”

But the source also revealed that those two preschools needed alternative funding sources, as the government is not footing the bill.

“The military authorities collected money from the residents and helped the collective farms restore [the preschools,]” said the source.

While in other countries, the announcement of free childcare services would result in jubilation among parents, the source said this was not the case when a town meeting was called in Yangso-ri to inform the people.

“They told the workers that a daycare center and a preschool will be open for a 10-day period, and that they could leave their kids between the ages of 1 and 7 there to focus on their farming work. Then they threatened [the mothers] saying that they plan to document all child related absences. This created a very unfriendly atmosphere,” said the source.

Meanwhile, a source from South Pyongan province said that the sudden order to reopen preschools without funding them is making the collective farms scramble to do so. But unlike the case in North Pyongan, the source said the farms in South Pyongan are instead docking the pay of farm workers.

“Since the government isn’t providing any food or money [for the preschools,] the collective farms decided to deduct a certain amount of ‘operational funds’ from the fall ‘allotment’ of the farm workers. The workers have expressed their opposition to the decision,” said the source.

This deduction will apparently be more for parents who utilize the preschools, according to the source.

“A high-ranking official at the farms told the workers that if they leave their children at the preschool, there will be deductions from their fall allotment even for the food their children eat [while there,]” the source said.

school
An RFA article published in 2014 described how in an effort to ‘standardize the state education system’ the regime ordered the immediate closure of all privately run day care facilities, deeming them illegal. Pixabay

“[The workers] are resentful of the authorities, saying that [the policy] is meant to keep young women work in the farms, and to be able to justify treating them as if they were slaves.”

Many North Koreans view childcare as a necessity, especially in the cities. But the North Korean government has attempted to assert full control over that as well.

Also Read: 7 out of 10 Women Cheat on Spouses in India: Survey

An RFA article published in 2014 described how in an effort to ‘standardize the state education system’ the regime ordered the immediate closure of all privately run day care facilities, deeming them illegal.

But in that case as well, the state had been unable to adequately distribute food and fuel to the schools starting in the 1990s, leaving the schools unfit to accommodate small children, according to sources. (RFA)

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Mothers Who are Dissatisfied with Their Male Partners Spend More Time Talking to Their Baby Boy

The quality of a couple's relationship is known to be related to developmental outcomes such as their behaviour and educational attainment

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Mothers, Male, Partners
It's possible that the mum is trying to compensate for the poor relationship she has with her partner by putting more time and effort into her relationship with her other close male social partner, her son. Pixabay

If you find that your wife is spending more time talking to the baby boy at home, check whether your relationship is heading in the right direction or not.

According to researchers from University of Cambridge, mothers who are dissatisfied with their male partners spend more time talking to their infants — but only if the child is a boy.

“It’s possible that the mum is trying to compensate for the poor relationship she has with her partner by putting more time and effort into her relationship with her other close male social partner, her son,” said Elian Fink from the Centre for Family Research and the Faculty of Education.

The quality of a couple’s relationship is known to be related to developmental outcomes such as their behaviour and educational attainment in school-aged children, but has been little studied in relation to parent-infant talk, despite parent-infant talk being important for the child’s development.

Mothers, Male, Partners
If you find that your wife is spending more time talking to the baby boy at home, check whether your relationship is heading in the right direction or not. Pixabay

To examine the relationship between the quality of a couple’s relationship and parent-infant talk, researchers studied 93 first-time, heterosexual parents and their interactions with their infants.

The team asked parents about the quality of their couple relationship and how satisfied they were and then gave the infants at age seven months a wearable ‘talk pedometer’ that recorded naturalistic parent-infant talk for a full day in which both parents were at home.

The researchers used software to provide an automated analysis of the frequency of adult spoken words to their infant and of parent-infant ‘conversations’.

After taking depression into account (because of its links with both couple relationship quality and parent-infant talk), the researchers found that the more dissatisfied a couple reported their relationship to be, the more the mother spoke to her infant.

Also Read- Teenagers Who are Not in Romantic Relationship have Good Social Skills, Low Depression

Mothers who reported the quality of their relationship to be ‘low’ used around 35 per cent more words than a mother whose relationship was ‘average’ and started around 20 per cent more conversations.

However, these effects were only found with infant sons, not daughters, said the findings published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

The researchers did not analyse the content of the mother-infant talk, so it is not possible to say whether the mother was complaining to her infant or talking positively.

“What is particularly interesting is that mums only seem to compensate when they have infant sons, not daughters. It could be that mothers’ view their daughters as mini versions of themselves rather than of their partners,” said Fink.

Mothers, Male, Partners
According to researchers from University of Cambridge, mothers who are dissatisfied with their male partners spend more time talking to their infants — but only if the child is a boy. Pixabay

Regardless of infant gender, fathers showed significantly less overall talk and initiated fewer conversations than did mothers, even though fathers are increasingly becoming involved in parenting.

Also Read- Blood Pressure-Lowering Effect of Exercise Significantly Reduces When People Rinse their Mouths with Mouthwash

“Finding time to talk to children is very important. Using opportunities within the daily routine, such as mealtimes and bedtime, to have conversations with your child may help foster later child talk,” Fink noted. (IANS)