Kinderland Videos Painful To Watch, ECDA Considering Raising Fines For Preschool Operators: Sun Xueling

Sun Xueling Says In Parliament That Kinderland Incidents Are Not Reflective Of Preschool Sector

Late last month, social media videos surfaced of teachers allegedly abusing students at Kinderland preschools in Woodlands Mart and Choa Chu Kang.

While action has been taken against the teachers involved as well as the operator, Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling has said that the videos were “painful to watch”.

Source: Claudia Tan on Facebook

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) is also considering enhancing the penalties for errant preschool operators, she said.

Sun Xueling ‘shocked & alarmed’ at Kinderland videos

Speaking in Parliament on Monday (18 Sep), Ms Sun said like many members of the public, she was “shocked and alarmed” at what she saw in the videos.

Source: MCI Singapore on YouTube

That’s why she added that “this incident, and the others at the Kinderland centres, should not have happened”, stating,

Our children deserve to grow up, learn (and) play in a safe and nurturing environment.

Videos from the Woodlands Mart campus showed a teacher handling children roughly while trying to make them drink water. She also appeared to shout and hit a child with a textbook before yanking him.

Meanwhile the video at the Choa Chu Kang school showed a teacher shouting “drink” at a boy while handing a water bottle to him. She also smacked him on the head a few times and pushed him away.

Kinderland cases not reflective of preschool sector: Sun Xueling

However, the Kinderland incidents are “not reflective” of the wider preschool sector, Ms Sun said.

In fact, many preschool educators have been dedicating their time and energy into caring and nurturing children. Ms Sun added that they have put the kids’ well-being as their top priority.

Thus, they have also expressed shock and dismay at the Kinderland cases.

Source: Facebook

ECDA will strengthen safeguards

To prevent more of such incidents, ECDA will work closely with the preschool sector to strengthen its system of safeguards, Ms Sun said.

She noted that the Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDC) Act and Regulations prohibit force-feeding as well as aggressive actions like striking a child and neglect.

These are in ECDA’s Code Of Practice, which includes further details on how to meet these requirements.

Source: MCI Singapore on YouTube

However, in response to Aljunied MP Gerald Giam’s suggestion that preschools adopt a “child protection policy”, she said what’s more important is the execution of the policies on the ground.

That’s why ECDA has “multilayered safeguards”. Even so, operators, centre leaders and educators have to play their part too, Ms Sun noted.

ECDA reviewing raising of fines

One of the moves ECDA is planning is a review of the provisions in their current regulatory framework, which came into effect in 2019, Ms Sun said.

This includes seeing if penalties imposed on errant operators should be enhanced.

One of the penalties under consideration is the system of fines. The operator of Kinderland Woodlands Mart was fined S$5,000, which is the maximum fine that the law stipulates.

Source: Google Maps

ECDA is looking into whether such fines should be raised, Ms Sun said.

The agency also reduced the operator’s tenure to six months.

In the worst case, a preschool’s licence can be revoked, the minister of state noted.

Preschools need time to install CCTVs: Sun Xueling

Many MPs also asked Ms Sun questions about CCTV cameras in preschools, including the deadline for their mandatory installation.

ECDA has announced that all preschools must install CCTVs by 1 July 2024.

Ms Sun acknowledged that some parents may prefer the deadline to be earlier, but preschools need time to procure and install the CCTVs correctly and at the appropriate venues.

They also must ensure protocols are in place to ensure the privacy of children and staff.

Parents additionally need to know that they will receive access to CCTV footage only when “serious incidents” are reported. Operators will inform parents that they will mask the faces of children and staff who are not part of the investigation to protect their privacy.

In response to an MP who pointed out the possible tampering of footage, Ms Sun said that it would be an offence. The authorities would take “firm action” against operators that do so to cover up wrongdoing.

No-personal-devices policy shouldn’t stop whistleblowing

One of the earliest responses from Kinderland to the incidents was to disallow staff from using personal devices during working hours.

Madam Ho Ching criticised this move and questioned whether it was to “cover up the embarrassment and prevent future incidents of video evidence of abuse”.

A teacher who has since left Kinderland had taken the videos at the Woodlands Mart videos branch.

In Parliament, Ms Sun said such policies shouldn’t stop staff from reporting wrongdoing, adding,

If so, this is a clear breach of the operator’s duty to implement an effective reporting mechanism and ECDA will take action against the operator.

The teacher in the Woodlands Mart video, 33-year-old Lin Min, has been charged with ill-treating a 23-month-old child by allegedly making her lie down and pouring water into her mouth.

Kinderland has suspended the Choa Chu Kang preschool teacher, whom police have also arrested.

Also read: Ex-Kinderland Teacher In Alleged Abuse Videos Offered S$15K Bail, May Face More Charges

Ex-Kinderland Teacher In Alleged Abuse Videos Offered S$15K Bail, May Face More Charges

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