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The Straits Times
Aug 29, 2023
Some parents have withdrawn their children from Kinderland Preschool @ Woodlands Mart after videos of a teacher there allegedly manhandling pupils were circulated online widely on Monday.
A parent whose two-year-old daughter was seen in the video footage seemingly being forced to drink water, told The Straits Times she will pull her daughter out from Kinderland once she can get a place in another pre-school.
The parent, an educator in her 30s, said she was appalled when she saw the videos, adding that she can no longer trust the pre-school to look after her child.
“I cried when I saw her being treated in that manner. It was heartbreaking as I don’t lay a hand on my daughter,” she said, adding that she lodged a police report on Monday.
The mother, who declined to be named, said she was informed by the principal of the pre-school two weeks ago that the teacher had “mishandled her daughter”. This was before the video was circulated.
She said: “The principal told my husband and me that the teacher had used a bit of force to get my daughter to drink water, and that it wasn’t that serious.
“The teacher also told us she didn’t mean any harm, so we didn’t think too much of it at first. We only saw the video on Monday and were shocked,” she said, adding that the incident had been downplayed.
Another parent, whose three-year-old son attends the pre-school, told ST she felt a sinking feeling in her stomach when she saw the videos. She said her son had returned home with light injuries a few times.
The mother in her 30s, who works at a bank, said tearfully: “When he had a bruise on his forehead last year, we asked the principal and she said he had been running around and hit himself against the table.
“We’ve also seen scratches on his neck and red marks on his wrists.”
“He has had recurring nightmares and wakes up screaming in the middle of the night saying, ‘Don’t want, don’t want.’ I scolded him at one point as I was exhausted, but I regret that so much now,” she added.
When she told the principal about her son’s nightmares and reluctance to go to school, she said the principal brushed it off, saying there were no problems at the pre-school.
The mother said she believed the explanation because her son is active and playful.
Another parent, who wanted to be known only as Ms S, has withdrawn her three-year-old son from the pre-school as a precaution.
“My son hasn’t had any issues so far but I just want to be safe,” said the mother in her 30s who works in the public service.
The pre-school sent a letter to parents on Monday night in response to the videos circulating online.
The letter, signed by the principal, Ms Mahirah Yasid, stated that the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and the police are investigating the case, and the school has dismissed the teacher after conducting an inquiry.
She wrote: “We have also reached out to the parents of the affected children and apologised deeply to the parents and children.
“We are profoundly grateful to parents who have accepted our apology and remedial measures, to which they have our fullest assurance that we continue to place the utmost priority on the welfare of children under our care.”
Ms Mahirah added that she and the teachers “remain committed to upholding this trust you have placed in us and we will continue to work together constructively for our children to grow holistically”.
An ECDA spokesman said that it is investigating the incidents and is unable to give further details.
The spokesman added that the agency has instructed the pre-school operator to guide and support teachers, and that it will work with the centre to ensure the safety of the children enrolled.
Sembawang GRC MP Poh Li San in a Facebook post on Tuesday said she will work closely with ECDA to help parents who have asked to switch schools.
She said many affected parents have written in to ask for help and provide feedback. “Your inputs have been collated and provided to ECDA for their investigation and review,” she added.
According to Kinderland Singapore’s website, Kinderland International Education provides infant care and pre-school education for children from two months to six years old.
It has more than 60 pre-school centres in Singapore, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangladesh and has provided early childhood education for over 40 years.
Kinderland, in a statement late on Tuesday, said the teacher is a Singaporean who has been with the pre-school since March 2020. It added that the pre-school was made aware of the videos when ECDA contacted Kinderland on Aug 17 for an investigation.
It said based on the timestamp on the videos, the videos were recorded between June 27 and June 30 this year, and that there were two teachers in the classroom at the time. The second teacher, a 37-year-old Singaporean, had joined Kinderland Woodlands Mart in May and resigned on July 29.
The children were all under three years old at the time, it added.
The statement said: “Currently, two of the affected children are doing well. The mother of the third child has posted on social media that her daughter woke up screaming last night, which she attributes to the incident.”
Kinderland added that it will install more closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in its Woodlands and Choa Chu Kang branches to assure parents and the public.
It said: “Presently, Kinderland has CCTV cameras installed along the common corridors, entrance and exits of the centre.
“CCTV cameras in classrooms had always been a matter of concern with protecting the privacy of the children. Following these incidents, we will be expanding the installation of CCTVs in all classrooms and children activity areas in these two centres.”