SINGAPORE - A childcare centre in River Valley has denied allegations that it abused children under its care through neglect and by feeding them rotten fruit.
In a statement to the media on Wednesday (Feb 22), Sam's Early Learning Centre in Jalan Mutiara, off River Valley Road, said it believes the photos were posted by an unhappy former employee who has since returned to China.
Last Tuesday, photos were posted on Chinese social media site WeChat showing pupils from the centre lying on the floor without mattresses.
The centre said these in fact showed students doing stretching and breathing exercises.
Other photos showed fruit in the kitchen area, with captions accusing the centre of feeding rotten fruit to the children.
Noting that these were "uncut fruit not ready to be served to children", the centre said that it purchases fruit twice a week.
It added: "If any part does go bad overnight, (it) is cut out and thrown away. If the whole fruit is bad, for sure it is disposed of."
Another photo showed a child lying in a cot with a used diaper next to him and faeces smeared on his bare bottom.
The centre said in response to this: "The toddler in the cot was in our care in 2016 and had the habit of pulling his diapers off while having a bowel movement during his nap time.
On the day that the photo was taken, the teacher had called a cleaner to assist in washing the child, while the teacher held him and distracted him, the centre said.
This young toddler and family have since moved back to their home country.
On another photo of milk powder being discarded, the centre said powder that spills onto the counter is swept up and thrown away for hygienic purposes.
The centre said that parents have been "very supportive and positive, offering to write petitions and letters in support of the centre".
Earlier, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), which regulates kindergartens and childcare centres, said the "safety and well-being of children in childcare centres are of utmost importance".
"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."
Since 2001, the school has held 24-month-long licence tenures, the maximum permitted.
According to ECDA, a 24-month licence is issued to a childcare centre that has exceed ECDA's licensing requirements and is indicative of a high quality centre.
When The Straits Times spoke to about 10 parents outside the school on Monday evening (Feb 20), few of them seemed particularly concerned by the allegations.
None of them planned to withdraw their children from the school.
One parent, Mr Mario Montanari, 38, a commodities trader whose two-year-old son has been at the centre for seven months, said: "The place is great. He wakes up and wants to go play, and always comes home happy."
Another parent, the director of a food events company who wished to be known only as Ms Yasuko, 40, said her eldest child spent six years at the centre, and her second child has been there for five years.
"We trust the school. If something really wasn't right, they (the accusers) would report it to the police. Why just post it (online)?"
Opportunists have already swooped in. Hovering near the school gates on Monday evening (Feb 20) were several people who claimed they were from rival pre-school centre.
One of them, who was handing out brochures to parents, told this reporter she was there to encourage parents to switch pre-schools.
"After hearing the news, we were very concerned," explained the woman, who did not want to be named.