Wednesday 10 July 2013

Childcare abuse case: NTUC First Campus dismisses teacher in incident

Two more parents lodge reports; teacher 'admits actions'
By Priscilla Goy And Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 9 Jul 2013

A CHILDCARE teacher who allegedly abused a three-year-old boy was sacked yesterday following her arrest, even as more police reports were lodged.

The 51-year-old, who was working part-time at a My First Skool branch in Toa Payoh, admitted that her actions were "inappropriate and has accepted the dismissal", said a statement from NTUC First Campus, which runs the childcare centre.

The statement added that two more parents whose children go to the Toa Payoh branch have also made police reports, and that the childcare chain will "fully" cooperate with these investigations.

The case first came to light when a video of a child being dragged across the floor and pushed to the ground last Friday was circulated online.

It immediately caused an uproar, and the teacher who allegedly committed the abuse was arrested on Sunday.

Yesterday morning, NTUC First Campus chief executive Chan Tee Seng and My First Skool general manager Adeline Tan met about 10 parents whose children were taught by the teacher to address their concerns.

Credit officer Eddie Khor, who attended the briefing, had lodged a police report the day before. He had spotted small bruises and scratches on his 2 1/2-year-old son's legs about two to three months ago.

These bruises appeared after his son was transferred from the toddler level to the playgroup class, which is for children aged 30 months to three years old. The boy had also resisted going back to school.

"When my wife raised this matter to the centre, the teachers just told us that children hurt one another when they play around and the staff did not bother to look at any closed- circuit television footage to confirm this," said Mr Khor, 34.

He decided to go to the police after watching the video on Sunday. He is also considering withdrawing his son from the centre.

The other parent who lodged a police report declined to be interviewed.

The Straits Times spoke to 10 other parents who send their children to the Toa Payoh centre, but most said they did not intend to transfer their child.

Among those whose children had been taught by the teacher at the centre of the abuse allegation, most also said they did not have a bad impression of her.

Barista Erma Kader, 41, whose six-year-old son goes to the centre, said: "I will not take him out of school just because of one case. The teacher used to take care of my son, and she is nice and caring."

Accountant Mei Teo, 32, who has two daughters in the centre, said she found the teacher "okay" but added: "When it comes to children, you may have to be stern. But you definitely can't use physical force."

The teacher was named on Facebook by the child's mother. Naming her publicly may lead to the identification of the boy, who is protected as a minor under the Children and Young Persons Act.

NTUC's My First Skool is one of the largest pre-school operators here, taking care of about 10,000 children at 101 centres.

Last year, the Government received 75 complaints of "alleged inappropriate child management" in pre-schools - ranging from teachers raising voices to scratches on children. Nearly all were unfounded. In two cases, action was taken against the teachers and pre-schools.

Teacher held after video shows 'abuse' of boy, 3
By Walter Sim And Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 8 Jul 2013

A CHILDCARE teacher was arrested yesterday after shocking footage emerged of her apparently dragging a three-year-old across the floor and pushing him to the ground.

The 51-year-old - who was working part-time at NTUC My First Skool in Toa Payoh - was pictured grabbing the child by the arm when he ran towards her, before forcing him to sit.

The boy was later seen limping and was said to have suffered a fractured shin.

Parents reacted with outrage after a clip of last Friday's incident - which was captured on security camera - was posted online by his parents.

Yesterday, Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing promised a thorough investigation into factors such as teachers' training, and called the incident a reminder of the "heavy responsibility" involved in childcare.

NTUC First Campus CEO Chan Tee Seng said at a press conference that he was "very disturbed" and "saddened". He said the teacher with 16 years of experience - who has been suspended - behaved in a "totally unacceptable" way. "My heart goes out to the child and his parents," he added.

Last night, the boy's mother told The Straits Times that she and her husband asked to see the footage after becoming suspicious. "My husband and I haven't slept in two days, and my son is still in a lot of pain," said the 30-year-old service industry worker, who asked not to be named. "I hope he is mentally strong to forget about it, and to push this negativity aside."

She added that her son was resting at home and had been transferred to another branch of the childcare chain at the family's request.

NTUC First Campus has said it will pay for the boy's medical expenses. It will meet the teacher today as part of an internal probe, which could lead to her dismissal.

* NTUC childcare centre's licence cut
Toa Payoh centre linked to child abuse case faces more inspections
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 19 Jul 2013

THE childcare centre involved in an alleged child abuse case has had its licence tenure cut from 24 months to six months.

More inspections will be carried out at the NTUC My First Skool centre in Toa Payoh, and it will have to meet a set of conditions in order to have its licence renewed. These include having clearer guidelines for reporting incidents involving children under its care. If the centre fails to get its licence renewed, it will have to shut down.

Separately, the authorities may also tighten licensing conditions for the entire childcare sector. Centres may be required to send their teachers for a minimum number of hours of upgrading courses before they can get their licences renewed.

The announcements yesterday came as the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) wrapped up an internal investigation into the case which shocked many parents.

In the incident which happened earlier this month, a teacher was caught on video dragging a three-year-old boy across the floor and pushing him to the ground. The boy suffered a fractured shin. The 51-year-old teacher has been arrested and sacked. Police investigations are still ongoing.

The internal probe by ECDA found that there was evidence of child mismanagement and lapses in some operations at the centre.

For example, the centre did not report the incident to the authorities within 24 hours as required under existing guidelines.

"Over the next six months, we expect NTUC My First Skool to work closely with ECDA to rectify some of the things they could have done better," Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said yesterday, after visiting pre-schools in Serangoon. "The incident is a reminder of how we need to strengthen our system and the trust (among parents, teachers and childcare operators)."

Childcare centres are issued licences of different tenure - six to 24 months - depending on how they measure up to licensing requirements set by ECDA. The tenure of the licence is indicative of the quality of the centre.

Last year, two centres had their licensing tenures cut short because their teachers had disciplined their children inappropriately, by pulling the child's ears, for instance. ECDA did not identify these centres.

At the end of six months, the NTUC centre in Toa Payoh must meet a set of requirements spelt out by ECDA, said the agency's chief executive Lee Tung Jean. These include providing more support and training for teachers.

It is also required to improve its centre layout, so children can be split into smaller groups and teachers can focus better on them.

Steps will also be taken to make sure teachers in the sector, which is facing a manpower crunch, get better support and training.

For instance, the Education Services Union, which represents pre-school teachers, is looking into setting up a common hotline or centre where teachers can receive counselling advice.

The union is also discussing with ECDA to make it mandatory for childcare operators to send their teachers for continual training if they want to renew their licences, said Mr Ang Hin Kee, executive secretary of the union.

He said the union has been in touch with the teacher accused of child abuse to provide her with the support she needs. "Many have looked at the video and crafted the story based on it. They have not seen the full picture."

NTUC First Campus, which runs the centre, said yesterday that it will roll out new measures at all its 101 centres. These include setting up an independent review panel to look into complex cases of injury, accident or mishandling reported.

When contacted yesterday, the parents of the boy in the incident said they are still "not satisfied" with the outcome, and hope to transfer him to a centre run by another operator.

** Ex-childcare teacher gets jail for manhandling boy
By Ian Poh, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2014

A FORMER teacher with NTUC My First Skool childcare centre was sentenced to three weeks in jail yesterday for manhandling a two-year-old boy.

A video of the abuse last year, taken from security camera recordings at the centre's branch in Toa Payoh Central, went viral and led to widespread outrage after it was posted online by his parents.

Siti Hadijah Mohamed Sin, 52, was seen grabbing the boy's upper arms and heaving him backwards onto the floor twice. The child suffered a hairline fracture in his left shin.

Yesterday, Siti Hadijah, who was sacked from her part-time teaching job in the wake of the July 5 incident, broke down in the dock when she was told of her punishment. Some of her family and friends who were in court comforted her, but they declined to speak to the media.

The court heard that Siti Hadijah was in charge of a group of 10 children at the time of the abuse. Most of the group had already seated themselves for a class activity that day but the victim continued to run around. So she held the boy by his arm and pulled him to a corner of the classroom, where she committed the offence.

When the toddler had difficulty standing up and walking, she had to carry him to join the group.

He was later referred to hospital and diagnosed with the fractured shin. A medical report said it was a toddler's fracture, which can happen when a twisting force is applied to the lower leg.

In her mitigation, defence counsel Satwant Singh said his client, who started teaching at First Skool in February 2009, was feeling stressed and frustrated before the incident. The child she pulled was hyperactive and had a short attention span, he added.

Siti Hadijah, who pleaded guilty, could have been jailed for up to four years and fined up to $4,000.

The Early Childhood Development Agency carried out its own investigations last July, and found evidence of child mismanagement and lapses in some operations at the centre, including not reporting the incident to the authorities within 24 hours.

The childcare centre, which is run by NTUC First Campus, had its licence tenure cut from 24 months to six months, but this was renewed for two years in January this year.

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