More than 500 children will soon be filling up what ranks as the biggest kindergarten (barnehage) ever built in Norway. The huge day care center for small children was set to open Monday after years of controversy.
It’s been built inside an old margarine plant on Oslo’s east side and thus is called “Margarin Fabrikken.” It consists of four “bases” spread over three floors, each containing either 24 pre-schoolers or 12 toddlers and four adults.
The vast majority of Norwegians send their children to day care centers from the age of one, as soon as the mother’s and/or father’s full year of maternity leave benefits expire. That’s when they need to go back to work, and the children need to be placed with minders.
Despite the widespread “barnehage culture” in Norway, many parents and child care experts have been skeptical about the new Margarin Fabrikken, because they think it’s simply too big. “I think most parents, like us, prefer a small kindergarten for the children, with more overview and control,” one mother, Victoria Bakke, told newspaper Aftenposten.
Others praise the new Margarin Fabrikken’s facilities, which include an indoor gymnasium, water play area, drama and research rooms and large spaces simply for playing. “There is a connection between size and quality,” Torgeir Ødegaard of the Conservative Party told Aftenposten. “The children can get various educational opportunities they don’t get in smaller kindergartens, and it’s also easier to recruit well-qualified staff.”
City officials plan to build seven more large kindergartens to accommodate from 160 to 500 children each, to meet political goals for full coverage for all parents.
Views and News staff