Mr. Lee, I would like to address two points, which you discussed in your article that I found very disturbing.
The first point:
In reference to the centre receiving a 6-month licence tenure rather than the usual 24 months, as a result of investigations by the ministry of Social and Family Development and the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), you asked, “Would this be fair to MFS and other operators? Would this cause a teaching equivalent of “self censorship”? That they would let the little tikes get what they want? To sacrifice discipline rather than their jobs?”
Bearing in mind that the investigations by the said ministry and agency into the centre commenced because an abuse by a teacher occurred within the centre, I would like to ask first of all, are you an educator and secondly, are you an early childhood educator? The reason I am asking this is that, I wonder where your premise is coming from.
Discipline is an essential part of life and all educators, early childhood or otherwise, is in the business of discipline. However, discipline is to teach, to help a child learn to regulate behaviours and actions, which will stand him in good stead towards his life.
However, in order for teachers to teach and to teach effectively, children must feel safe in their environment. There has to be a trusting relationship between child and teacher. A teacher, who desires to impart any knowledge or values to a child, must also first build and then maintain a connection with that child. A teacher, who in any way traumatizes a child, disconnects from that child. The trust is broken and a barrier results out of distrust and fear. That barrier between child and teacher would hinder the process of learning for that child.
Teachers also teach through modelling appropriate behaviours. We do not teach through harsh and abusive ways. If teachers are not able to regulate their behaviours, how do we expect children, who are still learning social rules, desired and undesired behaviours, and whose brains are almost 2 decades away from fully maturing, to regulate their behaviours?
I also wonder how you equate putting in measures to prevent the possibility of another teacher from dragging a child across the room and shoving him on the floor, resulting in a hairline fracture as “sacrificing discipline” or letting “little tikes get what they want”?
Who are we protecting here? The adults who have the physical strength, the ability to regulate their own behaviours, and the means and opportunities to traumatize children or children who are our most vulnerable, physically smaller, and less regulated and competent because of their still developing brains and substantially less life experiences?
With all due respect, Mr. Lee, it appears from the way you have written your article, you apparently think that we should protect teachers and their methods of teaching before we protect our children.
With regard to your question on self-censorship of teachers, the teaching profession is one of constant reflection and review as teachers have tremendous influence, for better or worse, over their charges. And as such, self-censorship should and must be second nature to all teachers.
The second point and I quote you: “My First Skool has had no problems and was functioning safely for since time memorial. So why now? Is this another one of those Government knee-jerk reactions?”
I would like to point out that just because there was no major complaint or negative focus on the centre until the abuse came to light, it does not mean that there have not been any problems or that it was functioning safely.
Remember, that this abuse would have gone undetected if the parents of the abused child had not demanded to see the video from the CCTV, when informed that their child had suffered a fall while at the centre.
In fact, this abuse revealed just how much problems there were with the school and that some serious questions need to be asked and issues considered.
A teacher abused a boy and almost got away with it.
Has this teacher abused this child or any other child before and her actions gone undetected?
Have other teachers abused other children and were successful in keeping these cases undetected?
The teacher may have just been unlucky this time that the abuse ended with the boy becoming physically injured. However, this abuse was almost swept under the carpet and the injury attributed to a fall. If the teacher was almost successful this time in hiding the abuse, could there have been other incidents of abuse that occurred which went undetected?
In addition, do bear in mind that not all child abuse ends with evidence of physical injury and that abuse comes in many forms, i.e. physical, emotional, psychological, etc. Therefore, no physical injury does not necessary equate no abuse.
Two other teachers were in the class but neither acted to cease the abuse or report the abuse. Apparently, professionalism and the need to protect all children are values that not all teachers in that centre observed.
Have teachers in the past looked away or not acted to stop an abuse?
Have teachers in the past not reported after an abuse of a child?
The parents were told that their son had fallen and as a result, suffered a hairline fracture which, we now know is not the truth.
Have other parents been lied to with regard to past injuries of their children?
Have parents been lied to with anything pertaining to their children?
It was only the next day, when the parents demanded to see the video that the truth surfaced.
How is it that when a child is reported to have allegedly fallen and to have suffered a hairline fracture as a result of that fall within their premises and under their watch, no one within the management level thought to look at the video from the CCTV to ascertain how the accident occurred or to verify that the child did indeed sustain a hairline fracture as a result of a fall?
Are there any protocols that the school follow when an injury of a child is reported? For example, interviewing other teachers who may have witnessed the fall?
Are these interviews documented in an “Incident Report” as is the practice of most responsible centres?
Are internal investigations conducted before the management speak to parents? I mean, I am sure that any responsible organisation or operator of a preschool would like to know that it has all the facts before speaking to parents about anything regarding their child but especially when it concerns something of this magnitude.
I also find it quite strange that you are aware that the Social and Family Development Ministry and the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) conducted investigations and concluded that, “some areas were inadequate.” Yet, you question the rationale of a 6-month licence tenure given to the centre.
In light of all the above, it is my opinion that granting a 6 month licence tenure is merely a slap on the wrist and hardly a knee-jerk reaction.
What is important for us to remember is that childcare centres exist precisely to allow parents to entrust their precious and beloved children to a place worthy of their trust. Each day parents send their children to such centres with the knowledge that professionalism is the order of the day and that abuse of any kind is not the norm and will not be tolerated.