Principal made boy stand in corner with box on head

Another possible case of abuse in a childcare centre has surfaced, with its principal accused of yelling at a primary school boy, slapping him and pushing him against a wall.

The principal then allegedly made the boy stand in a corner with a cardboard box covering his head for more than three hours, said a source close to the school.

The boy was allegedly kept at the poorly ventilated corner and not allowed any food, water or toilet breaks as punishment for throwing a toy at a teacher.

The source, who called The New Paper hotline, told TNP yesterday that the incident occurred at a childcare centre in Tampines in April.

The source was prompted to come forward with the allegations after reading about the abuse of a three-year-old boy at childcare centre NTUC My First Skool at Block 192, Toa Payoh Lorong 4, last Friday.

The 51-year-old part-time teacher who allegedly mistreated the boy was arrested on Sunday and sacked by NTUC First Campus yesterday.

"When I read TNP's story of the rough treatment by the childcare teacher, I decided I had enough of keeping this (the Tampines incident) to myself. The principal doesn't have any respect for the kids," said the source, alleging that there had been instances of mistreatment, including caning, at the childcare centre.

Denied allegations

When TNP went to the childcare centre yesterday, the principal denied the allegations. She said: "We would never hit any of our children here. We love them too much."

When shown the picture of the boy with a box covering his head, she said she had hit only one child - her godson - after his father had "specially requested" for him to be disciplined.

The principal then said her godson had put the box over the other boy's head as the picture was taken.

"They were playing around," she said.

TNP later asked seven children, who were accompanied by their parents or grandparents, if there had been instances of caning at the centre.

Five said yes.

They declined to reveal more details. Their parents or grandparents said they had no prior knowledge of such physical punishments being meted out in the centre.

Hit on the palm

When the principal was told about what the children had said, she admitted that she did "hit some students, but only on their palms with a ruler".

She said: "Some children are really naughty, so we would hit them on their palms and warn them to behave. But after one, two, three, four warnings, we have no choice but to hit them on the palms again.

"We try to avoid doing that. We usually resort to banging on the tables or scolding them. But even so, we don't do that often."

The principal added that some parents had given her permission to use corporal punishment on their children. When asked, she provided TNP with the name of one mother.

When TNP contacted the mother, she said: "I don't see what's wrong (with the principal caning the kids). In fact, I asked them to discipline my child if he misbehaves. But they were the ones who said it's against the rules."

Ms Doris Mok, 46, a student-care teacher at a neighbouring centre, said she was shocked by the picture, but added that she has not heard of any complaints from the children or parents about that centre.

When shown the picture, pre-school teacher Sarah Leong, 22, called the act (of covering the child's head with a box) "demeaning".

"To put the box on his head like that is to cultivate shame in him, which is not a good feeling to instil in a child. They should not do that, no matter how much the child has frustrated the teacher or whoever was in charge of his care," said Miss Leong, who has been working in a childcare centre at Admiralty for three years.

Miss Leong and another childcare teacher said this was not the first time they have heard of such stories.

Miss Leong, for instance, has heard about a child being "stripped naked" by his teacher.

"But I think those are extreme cases. These things are not common, so when incidents like that come to light, it's quite shocking."

She said the boy in the picture was her godson and called him in to confirm this.

But when shown the picture and asked if it was him, he said: "No."

Instead, he named another boy as the one in the picture. It was the same name that the source had given TNP.

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