Why It Matters

Spotting abuse of young kids

Caregiver, educator, first-aider. Now, the pre-school teacher's role as a whistle-blower has come under the spotlight too.

Last week, The Straits Times reported that nearly 40 per cent of child abuse cases investigated by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) in the past three years involved victims younger than seven.

But pre-schools - often the "second home" for children in that age group - have been found wanting in spotting signs of child abuse, experts told ST.

A recent survey by the Singapore Children's Society suggested that pre-school teachers are not well trained in handling child abuse cases or are not aware of the resources available.

Child abuse includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse and neglect. Besides physical abuse, pre-school teachers should also be able to spot signs of sexual or emotional abuse.

MSF probes cases in which the abuse occurred in the family and victims are below the age of 16. Such cases have shot up in recent years.

For sure, getting pre-school teachers to flag child abuse cases may not be straightforward - there have been cases of teachers abusing children, and teachers have to be careful about who to alert as many abusers turn out to be family members.

Still, pre-school teachers are in a good position to watch out for the well-being of their young charges.

When a child hits his head and bleeds, a pre-school teacher's administration of first aid is crucial. Similarly, when a child is abused, a teacher's role in spotting signs of abuse and reporting this to the authorities is vital and can prevent the abuse from happening again.

All pre-school teachers have to be certified first-aiders and go for refresher courses; something similar should be done to train them to spot child abuse too, experts have suggested.

Pre-school teachers should get all the support they need to fulfil this role well.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2017, with the headline 'Spotting abuse of young kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe