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Yong Li Xuan and Wong Shiying
The Straits Times
Aug 28, 2023
A teacher at a pre-school in Woodlands is under investigation by the police for alleged child abuse after videos of her manhandling pre-schoolers were widely circulated online on Monday.
In a series of video clips making its rounds on social media and messaging platforms, the teacher at Kinderland @ Woodlands Mart can be seen forcing pre-schoolers to drink water and hitting a child on the buttocks with a book, among other things. The clips appear to have been taken on three different occasions.
In one clip, the teacher is seen forcing a child to drink water by pushing his head back several times in the span of about 12 seconds. The boy wails and tries repeatedly to push her hand off his forehead but fails.
Unable to get the boy to keep still, the teacher then grabs him around the torso and pushes his head backwards. With a laugh, she says in Mandarin: “I can’t feed him with just one hand.”
The teacher then lets the boy go, and shouts at the class. Speaking in English, she says: “Who is the next one? Come here. I will sit down and feed you water.”
In another clip, she appears to force another child, a girl, to drink water by squeezing her mouth open. The teacher then gets the girl to lie on the ground and pours water into her mouth while the child is seen crying and struggling.
The third video shows the teacher hitting a toddler’s backside with a hardcover book.
In response to queries, the police on Monday said reports have been lodged and a probe is under way.
An Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) spokesman, responding to queries from The Straits Times, said the teacher has been dismissed.
The agency, she added, is investigating the incident and is unable to give further details.
The spokesman said ECDA has instructed the pre-school operator to guide and support teachers, and that it will work with the centre to ensure the safety of children enrolled.
Sembawang GRC MP Poh Li San, in a Facebook post on Monday, said she is helping the parents of the affected children. She said: “Such unprofessional acts certainly cannot be condoned, and the staff must be brought to task.”
Speaking to ST on Monday, Ms Poh said investigations will need to be complete before a decision is made about whether the incidents are deemed abusive.
A parent, whose two-year-old daughter was seen in the video footage being forced to drink water, said the principal of the pre-school informed her two weeks ago that the teacher had “mishandled her daughter”.
The educator in her 30s said: “The principal told us that the teacher, who goes by Ms Li, had used a bit of force to get my daughter to drink water, and that it wasn’t that bad.
“Ms Li also told us she didn’t mean any harm, so we didn’t think too much of it. We only saw the video today and were appalled that the school had downplayed the incident.”
The mother, who declined to be named, said she cried when she saw her daughter, who has been with the pre-school since she was four months old, 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.
She added that she went to the pre-school to ask for an explanation on Monday afternoon and was told the teacher was dismissed earlier that day. She is looking to enrol her daughter in another pre-school nearby.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Sengkang GRC MP Louis Chua said that “proper use of CCTVs (in preschools) with appropriate safeguards/controls in place will allow parents, teachers, the management team of preschools and the authorities to have greater peace of mind”.
He added: “There is a tremendous level of trust placed in our preschool teachers, and I’m sure the majority of our preschool teachers love our children like their own... in unfortunate incidents such as this, evidence over a period of time can be collected and reviewed quickly.”
On Monday evening, a Facebook post featuring the video clips had been shared more than 10,000 times and racked up 2,300 reactions.
According to Kinderland Singapore’s website, Kinderland International Education provides infant care and pre-school education for children from two months to six years of age. It has over 60 pre-school centres in Singapore, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangladesh and has provided early childhood education for over 40 years.
ST has contacted Kinderland Singapore for more information.