Pertapis Children's Home: Teacher guilty of ill-treating children

Muhammad Abdul Gani admitted to four charges under the Children and Young Persons Act.
Muhammad Abdul Gani admitted to four charges under the Children and Young Persons Act.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

He faced 10 charges involving five boys, two girls, aged between four and 11, under his care

A welfare and religious teacher was convicted yesterday of ill-treating four children under his care at the Pertapis Children's Home.

Muhammad Abdul Gani faced 10 charges of ill-treating five boys and two girls, aged between four and 11, between 2012 and January last year.

The 27-year-old, who has been transferred elsewhere within Pertapis, where he would not be working with children in Kovan Road, admitted to four charges under the Children and Young Persons Act.

Pertapis provides residential care for children aged between four and 12. They are from dysfunctional families, abused or neglected, beyond parental control or at-risk.

A Ministry of Social and Family Development manager made a police report in February last year, stating that an ex-employee of the home had disclosed that certain employees had been meting out inappropriate punishment to the children, mainly during lessons, prayer times and volleyball activities.

Investigations revealed that, some time in 2013, at the prayer room at the Home, Muhammad had grabbed the head of a seven-year-old boy below his ears and lifted him off the ground for not lining up properly.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kavita Uthrapathy said he did the same to a four-year-old boy for no apparent reason some time that year .

In another instance, a 10-year-old girl was whistling in the prayer room when Muhammad told her to stop. When she continued to whistle, he pushed his hand against her mouth, causing the back of her head to hit a cupboard.

Some time in 2012, another girl, aged 10, was made to stand on a chair for being noisy during meal time. He then kicked the chair causing her to fall to the ground.

Ms Kavita said Muhammad was under strict instructions not to use physical violence on the children. As a religious teacher, he had no business laying his hands on them, she added.

She is seeking a sentence of at least four weeks' jail to reflect the serious view the courts and society take of such offences.

She said there was a gross breach of trust and authority in this case involving vulnerable children.

Muhammad's lawyer Abdul Jalil Muhammad Tahir, however, said a fine would be more than sufficient, pointing out that the victims had not suffered any adverse psychological effects.

"It is unfortunate that these incidents had happened... he just wanted to discipline them, nothing more than that," he said.

District Judge Christopher Goh will pass sentence on Oct 13.

Muhammad faces a maximum sentence of a $4,000 fine and four years' jail on each charge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2015, with the headline 'Teacher guilty of ill-treating children'. Print Edition | Subscribe