No signs of abuse at pre-school centre

Housewife Amy Deng, 33, fetching her five-year-old son from Sam's Early Learning Centre on Tuesday afternoon. The boy has been attending the childcare centre for more than two years.
Housewife Amy Deng, 33, fetching her five-year-old son from Sam's Early Learning Centre on Tuesday afternoon. The boy has been attending the childcare centre for more than two years.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Agency says photos of Sam's Early Learning Centre on social media taken out of context

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), which regulates kindergartens and childcare centres, yesterday said it has not uncovered anything adverse at a pre-school centre which has been at the receiving end of an online allegation of abuse and neglect.

Last Tuesday, a series of photos shared on social media application WeChat showed pupils from Sam's Early Learning Centre lying on the floor without mattresses.

There were also photos of fruits in the kitchen area, with captions accusing the centre, located in Jalan Mutiara near River Valley Road, of feeding rotten fruits to the children.

The charges under its care are mostly infants to six-year-olds.

Another photo showed a child lying in a cot with a used diaper next to him, and with faeces on his bare bottom. The netizen wrote that the child had "dug" out the faeces from his bottom and eaten them.

An ECDA spokesman said its investigation showed the photos "appear to have been taken out of context".

Meanwhile, the centre, in a statement, yesterday said it believes the photos were posted by an unhappy former employee, who has since returned to China.

Many of the charges at the centre, which first opened in 1989, are the children of expatriates.

The centre yesterday said no rotten fruit was ever served to the children. And they were lying on the floor during stretching and breathing exercises.

As for the photograph of the toddler in the cot, the centre said that he had the habit of pulling his diapers off while having a bowel movement during nap time. On the day the photo was taken, the teacher was holding the toddler and distracting him while calling a cleaner to assist in cleaning the child.

The toddler and his family have since returned to their home country.

The centre's director SamiaEl- Ibiary said the photos were taken last year.

The ECDA said its investigations included "conducting unannounced visits to the premises, verification of documents, as well as interviewing children, parents and staff at the centre".

Sam's Early Learning Centre has held 24-month-long licence tenures, the maximum permitted, since 2001.

The ECDA said 24-month licences are issued to childcare centres that exceed its licensing requirements, and such licences are indicative of high quality centres.

Said the agency: "Under the Child Care Centres Act, all childcare centres are required to meet the stipulated regulatory requirements to protect the safety, well-being and welfare of children in centres and ECDA will not hesitate to take action should there be a breach against our requirements."

None of the 10 parents whom The Straits Times spoke to outside the centre on Monday is planning to withdraw the children.

Housewife Amy Deng, 33, whose five-year-old son has attended the centre for more than two years, described the centre as "not bad".

She said her son likes being there, and added that "it isn't good to change the environment for little kids".

On Monday evening, several people claiming to be from another pre-school centre were spotted outside the centre handing out brochures to parents.

One of them told The Straits Times that she was there to encourage the parents to switch schools.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2017, with the headline 'No signs of abuse at pre-school centre'. Print Edition | Subscribe