SINGAPORE: A childcare centre in Singapore has denied allegations that it abused children under its care by neglecting them and feeding them rotten fruit.
In a statement sent 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 a disgruntled ex-employee who has since returned to China.
The photos, which first surfaced on Chinese social media site WeChat last Tuesday, showed children sitting and lying on the floor without mattresses. One photo showed fruit in the centre’s kitchen, with a caption accusing the centre of feeding children rotten fruit. Another showed a child lying in a cot with a dirty diaper next to him and faeces smeared on his body.
The post also claimed that teachers at the centre did not prepare milk for a child with the milk powder provided by his parents, and threw the milk powder away instead.
Mrs Samia El-Ibiary, the centre's director, said the photos were taken last year and that they “do not represent an accurate picture” of its operations.
The photo of the “rotten fruit” showed uncut fruit not ready to be served to the children, she said. “The centre purchases fruit twice a week and certainly if any part does go bad overnight, (it) is cut out and thrown away. Certainly, if the whole fruit is bad, for sure it is disposed of.”
On the photos of students sitting on the floor, she said they had been assigned work to do as they finished their lunch. Those students lying down were doing “stretching and breathing exercises” after lunch, Mrs El-Ibiary said.
The photo of milk powder being discarded was of powder that had spilt onto the kitchen counter, and was swept up and thrown away for hygiene reasons, she said.
The child shown lying in a cot with a dirty diaper had a “habit of pulling his diapers off while in the process of having a bowel movement during his nap time”, Mrs El-Ibiary said. The teachers were aware of this and kept a “vigilant lookout” for this child, she added.
“On this particular day that the photo was taken, the teacher had called upon the cleaner to assist in the cleaning up of the child. The cleaner was asked to help wash the toddler while the teacher held him and distracted him.”
The child was under the centre’s care last year and he and his family have since moved back to their home country, she said.
ECDA SAYS CENTRE MEETS REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS
Late Wednesday, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), which oversees childcare centres in Singapore, said it has investigated the allegations against Sam’s Early Learning Centre. "This includes conducting unannounced visits to the premises, verification of documents, as well as interviewing children, parents and staff at the centre," a spokesperson said in a statement.
ECDA said its findings were consistent with the explanation by the childcare centre and that the "photographs appear to be taken out of context".
"Based on our visit, the centre complies with ECDA’s regulatory requirements for safety, health and hygiene. We have also not received adverse feedback about the centre from parents of children currently enrolled at the centre," the spokesperson added, stating that it will not hesitate to take action against operators who breach the Child Care Centres Act.