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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Second thoughts on the My First Skool child abuse case

Aiden with one of his favourite teachers.
Shock, anger and condemnation.

I think these are the most immediate reactions of people who viewed the child abuse video that went viral since Sunday.  The follow-up actions were just as swift, with the school management dismissing the 51 year old pre-school teacher, and the government making their stand on the issue very clear, by Monday night.

To us parents, there will be an added element of pain.  The pain comes from putting ourselves in the shoes of the parents of the 3 year old who was being handled roughly by the pre-school teacher at My First Skool Toa Payoh Central.  Allegedly, the acts of the pre-school teacher caused a fracture in his shin.  It is no wonder why many of us hope that we would never have to go through this ordeal with our own kids.

But, perhaps, we should leave the shock, anger, condemnation and pain aside for a moment and view the incident from another angle?

No.  If you are one of those ridiculous people online who think a naughty child could possibly 'deserve' such a treatment, shame on you.  Personally, I don't believe in corporal punishment.  There is something inherently wrong in trying to correct or stop a non-civil behavior with another non-civil behavior.

Instead, let's think about it.  The perpetrator does not fit the profile of someone capable of child abuse.  The pre-school teacher is an elderly 51 year old lady, has been a teacher for 16 years, had no prior compliants and was working part-time at the school.  I think that something as unbearable as the act of child abuse itself must have happened to her to trigger such an outburst from a seasoned educator with a clean record.

I'm not saying it is justifiable, but I don't believe such a person would suddenly decide that it is alright to mishandle a child like that.  I would even say that it might be understandable why she abused the child.  It could be due to illness, medication, stress (work, physical, emotional, financial), family issues, a series of unfortunate events, etc.  It is somewhat like the recent case where a young mother allegedly threw his own 9 year old son down from the fifth floor of their flat.  Tragic and unbearable, but there are could be understandable reasons (medical or otherwise).

As I see it, there are two deeply troubling observations.  The first was that the school attempted to cover up the abuse by informing the child's parents that he had a fall in school, and the second was that no other adult present at the school attempted to stop the act of child abuse happening right in front of their eyes.

Does this mean that we have a culture in our pre-schools of accepting such cover up for fear of backlash from over-protective parents?  Does this mean that the system has over time moulded generations of teachers that would find such acts of abuse justifiable?

If the answer to the two questions is 'Yes', then we should really react with shock, anger and condemnation.  And I hope the follow-up actions to these problems would be just as swift.


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