By now, you’re probably already aware of the Kinderland saga that has been going on.
If you don’t, you probably live under a rock. Literally.
This week, videos of teachers allegedly abusing children at two Kinderland preschool branches went viral.
Although new regulations have been put in place to protect the safety of students further, parents are still unsatisfied.
Following a “tense” dialogue session with Kinderland, parents remain unhappy.
The dialogue session was held on 2 September.
It was the first of three such dialogues held at the school.
Kinderland Singapore general manager Seet Lee Kiang and a representative from Crestar Education Group, which provides childcare services and preschool education programmes, spoke to around 30 parents and guardians.
The dialogues were organised as a dozen parents went to the school on 30 August to ask for explanations and solutions to the alleged abuse cases.
However, they were asked to return on another day.
The first session lasted 90 minutes and was described as “tense” by some parents.
Following the dialogue session, attendees were given a tour of the centre to observe the new CCTV cameras installed in classrooms and activity areas.
Notably, the tour was requested by the parents themselves.
Mr Seet said all parents with children at the centre’s branch were invited to the sessions.
However, some parents said that the school had not invited them.
Allegedly, they only found out about the dialogue through the news or parent chat groups.
One parent told The Straits Times that she felt like the management was trying to push off the meeting.
She also felt that the session did not help address concerns.
Apparently, the management told attendees that they had to review the problems raised before being able to respond.
Other parents shared her sentiments, calling the meeting “insufficient”.
Besides feeling that the management was insincere, they thought the issue about refunding parents who chose to withdraw their children from the school was not addressed.
A parent of the two-year-old child depicted in one of the viral videos said that the school had yet to apologise to affected parents formally.
Another parent, who had withdrawn his child from the centre two years ago as the child allegedly went home with injuries, was initially denied entry to the dialogue.
However, he was eventually allowed into the meeting and highlighted the importance of staff being allowed to use their personal devices at work.
After all, the alleged abuse cases were only highlighted because the original poster used her personal phone to record the evidence.
This suggestion came in response to the centre’s Facebook post on Wednesday, which announced that staff would not be allowed to use their personal devices during teaching hours to “prevent the misuse of photos and videos”.
Another issue was raised by the parent of the one-year-old boy seen being hit on the buttocks by his teacher in one of the videos.
The parent aired his concern that although cameras have been installed, there were only two cameras in opposite corners of the classroom.
The placement of the cameras would leave blind spots in the classroom that may be exploited.
According to Channel News Asia (CNA), a parent said some attendees raised their voices during the dialogue session.
Furthermore, Kinderland representatives allegedly tried to interrupt a parent when she was speaking.
Speaking to CNA, one parent said that although the school apologised, it kept saying that questions had to be answered by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), seemingly taking no responsibility for the incidents.
Regarding the Facebook post announcing that staff would no longer be allowed to use their personal devices during teaching hours, Mr Seet said that the management has since apologised for the post’s poor timing.
He also called the Facebook post a public relations “disaster”.
Apparently, the policy has been around since 2019 to protect the students’ privacy.
He told The Straits Times on 31 August that teachers could use their personal devices in emergencies.
Saying that the school has always encouraged whistle-blowing, he also mentioned that whistle-blowers can see the centre’s principal.
Those who want to remain anonymous can report incidents directly to Kinderland headquarters.
Regarding the issue of having blind spots in the classroom, Mr Seet said that Kinderland management informed parents that it would review the situation with the vendor.
He also confirmed that new CCTV cameras were installed following the videos.
On 31 August, Mr Seet said that former principal Mahirah Yasid was removed from her post and barred from participating in activities related to students.
In a press release on 2 September, Kinderland said that the new principal, Ms Surinder Kaur, has had 20 years of experience in the early childhood sector, half of which was spent with Kinderland.
She was introduced to parents at the first dialogue and will start work on Monday.
Mr Seet said that the new principal will be more involved in the preschool and have frequent walkabouts.
Speaking to reporters after the first dialogue, he acknowledged that the trust in Kinderland has been broken.
Kinderland also noted that a school counsellor with 14 years of experience has been appointed to help parents and children cope with the traumatic incident.
Aftermath of the Videos
According to Mr Seet, six children have been withdrawn from the school thus far.
He admitted that he expects more withdrawals in the coming weeks.
Some parents at the dialogue session told reporters about their desire to withdraw their children from the school.
However, they have yet to follow through due to the lack of vacancies in other preschools.
Following the saga, the school aims to increase communication with parents and review the current hiring and training processes.
On Monday, videos depicting a teacher at Kinderland Preschool @ Woodlands Mart handling children roughly began to circulate the internet.
In two videos, she was seen forcing children to drink water.
In one of them, she held a child on the floor and appeared to pour water into their mouth.
In a third video, the teacher was seen shouting at a child and hitting them many times with a book.
On Tuesday, another video taken at Kinderland’s Sunshine Place branch in Choa Chu Kang was circulated online.
The video showed an adult hitting a child on the head several times.
Sounds like every parent’s worst nightmare.
Since then, two people have been arrested.
33-year-old Lin Min, the teacher allegedly seen in the videos on Monday, was charged with ill-treating a child.
If you want to learn more about the incident, watch this video:
The ongoing saga isn’t the first time Kinderland has been scrutinised for on-campus incidents.
Some parents told The Straits Times that a Kinderland branch downplayed the severity of a viral outbreak in 2021.
Due to this, nearly an entire class of 15 students fell sick, and five were hospitalised.
Speaking to The Straits Times, Assistant Professor Cheung Hoi Shan from the National Institute of Education highlighted the importance of an open culture in preschools.
Some preschool operators, like EtonHouse and Star Learners, said their principals conduct regular informal checks to observe teacher-student interactions.
The Singapore Children’s Society also highlighted the importance of preschools having a child-safe policy.
Furthermore, staff must be familiar with and competent enough to follow these standards.
In another vein, the Kinderland saga has shown that educators need more support in coping with the job’s demands.
The pressure of meeting parents’ expectations and getting overwhelmed with handling children may cause educators to act out.
A preschool principal noted that her staff are encouraged to walk away when overwhelmed, as a flash of anger is not worth tarnishing their whole career.
Furthermore, when incidents like the Kinderland saga occur, the whole preschool industry suffers in morale and reputation.
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