Kinderland management seems insincere after ‘tense’ meeting, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Kinderland management seems insincere after ‘tense’ meeting

Some parents remain concerned even after Kinderland hired a new principal and installed more closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in one of its pre-schools, after videos of a teacher allegedly manhandling children at that branch went viral on Monday.

The parents were also informed that the pre-school education provider would review its hiring and training process for teachers, and improve its communication with parents, its management said on Saturday.

In the first of three dialogue sessions held on Saturday at the school, Kinderland Singapore general manager Seet Lee Kiang and a representative from Crestar Education Group spoke to about 30 parents and guardians.

Crestar Education Group provides infant and child care services, pre-school education, as well as enrichment and adult education programmes in the region through four brands including Kinderland.

Some parents told The Straits Times that the meeting was “insufficient” to reassure them, adding that the issue of refunds for parents who have withdrawn their children from the school was not addressed. Some also felt the management was not sincere in wanting to resolve the problems.

The first dialogue session, which some parents described as “tense”, lasted 90 minutes. It was followed by a tour requested by the parents to view new CCTV cameras installed in classrooms and activity areas.

This came after a dozen parents went to the school on Wednesday, to seek explanation and solutions but were asked to return on another day.

Mr Seet said all parents with children at the branch, which has about 70 to 80 pupils, were invited to the dialogue sessions, and there were parents who chose not to attend.

Some parents who attended the first session, however, said the school had not invited them. They found out about it through the news or parent chat groups.

One of them, Ms T, a 32-year-old marketing executive, said on Friday: “Their manager was pushing it (the meeting) off.” She has two children aged six and two at the pre-school.

Ms T told ST on Saturday that the dialogue session was “not very fruitful” because the management team told parents it needed to review issues raised before responding.

“I don’t think I’m satisfied at this moment. They have to gain back our trust,” she said, adding that she wants to withdraw her younger daughter from Kinderland but other pre-schools nearby said they do not have vacancies at the moment.

During the meeting, parents were told that they would be contacted individually if they have concerns about refunds.

“I don’t think they were prepared for this dialogue,” Ms T said, adding that the response was “disappointing” and did not seem sincere.

On Saturday, parents started arriving at the school at about 9.55am. 

A parent, whose two-year-old child is seen in one of the videos that surfaced on Monday, arrived at about 10am and told reporters that the school had not yet issued a formal apology to affected parents.

Another parent, Mr L, had a heated argument with Kinderland employees who did not allow him to join in the dialogue, even though he helped to arrange it.

They said it was because he withdrew his child two years ago, allegedly after the child went home with injuries. But he was eventually allowed to join in the meeting.

Mr K, whose one-year-old son is seen in a video being hit on the buttocks by the teacher, said that although cameras have been installed, there were only two cameras in opposite corners of a classroom, for example, leaving blind spots in the room.

Kinderland management told parents they would review the situation with the vendor when this issue was raised, he added.

Because his son was in the video, Mr K said Kinderland apologised to him on Aug 17 or 18 for forcing his son to drink water. When he saw in the video that his son was also hit by the teacher, he approached the school.

The 39-year-old, who works in banking, said the school insisted they had apologised for forcing his son to drink water and for being hit with a book. “I don’t buy their explanation,” he said. 

“In this instance, if there were CCTV cameras, it would have been easier to verify all the issues,” he said.

Kinderland had earlier said CCTV cameras were newly installed after the videos emerged on Monday.

The school has appointed a new principal who will start work next Monday. Former principal Mahirah Yasid has been removed from the post and barred from participating in activities relating to children, Mr Seet told ST on Thursday.

Mr K said he hopes the culture at the school will improve with a new leader. “After this incident, I feel that they will do a better job, but we have to wait and see the results.”

Due to the lack of vacancies in other pre-schools, he has not withdrawn his child from the school.

Addressing reporters after the first dialogue, Mr Seet said the first message to parents was that the management was saddened.

“The trust is broken,” he said. “We are sorry, we didn’t want this to happen.”

He said that as of this week, six children have withdrawn from the school and he expects that there may be more withdrawals in the coming weeks.

Lin Min, 33, the teacher allegedly seen in the videos that emerged on Monday, appeared in court via video link on Wednesday, where she was charged with ill-treating a child. She has been fired from the school.

She is said to have forced a 23-month-old girl into a lying position on the floor and poured water into her mouth.

Lin was one of two Kinderland teachers arrested this week for allegedly mistreating children under their care.

After a video taken at Kinderland’s Sunshine Place branch in Choa Chu Kang was circulated online widely on Tuesday, a 48-year-old teacher was arrested on Tuesday. She has been suspended.

The video shows an adult hitting a boy on the head several times.

On Wednesday, Kinderland posted on Facebook that its staff will no longer be allowed to use their personal devices, such as mobile phones, during teacher hours, so as to “prevent the misuse of photos and videos of our children”. Kinderland clarified on Thursday that teachers will be allowed to use their devices in “emergency cases”.

ST is not naming the parents due to a gag order to protect the victim.