Child abuse claims have rocked a Pretoria community after video footage of toddlers being manhandled by the teachers went viral.
The videos show the owner of Darwin’s Educational Playground After-care crèche in Tuine in Pretoria and one of her daughters manhandling children in the class.
Jaco Koster Attorneys representing the teachers, Lizelle Zimmermann and Lucinda Correia, and owner Anna Correia said they were not commenting.
An employee at the crèche, Tiffany Mostert, said she wished she recorded more videos of children being abused. Mostert said she worked at the crèche for more than a year.
“In the beginning, I didn’t see anyone beating the children, because they never did it in front of me. They pretended to be taking them to another class to eat. I never concluded they were beating the children,” she said.
“The first time I saw it happen was before last November. I went to the bathroom when I saw one of them beating a child. When I asked about it, she said the child’s mother said it was fine to give the child a hiding if he refused to eat,” she claimed.
Mostert said no mother would have approved of that beating. She warned the first parent, who removed her child shortly after the incident. “I realised I needed evidence because the school did not have cameras,” she said.
After Mostert made the first video last year, she went to the local police station to report the matter, where she was allegedly turned away because the child being abused wasn’t her own.
Mostert said she continued to work at the crèche because she could protect the children.
At the beginning of the year, Mostert showed a parent a video of their child being abused but nothing happened.
Mostert resigned in March this year, because she couldn’t handle working there any longer. Police spokesperson Colonel Dimakatso Sello said a case of common assault was opened for further investigation.
Democratic Alliance Gauteng shadow MEC for education Khume Ramulifho said the incident was regrettable as the Early Childhood Development’s (ECD) mandate was to prepare children for the future.
“This has to be done in a caring manner. The basic education department has taken the programme over from social development from 1 April. We believe that they will make an alignment to ensure that all ECDs are registered and operate within set regulations,” he said.
Community activist Gert Jonker said Gauteng MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi must ensure that compliance was adhered to, including municipal bylaws and the vetting and training of ECD practitioners.
Jonker added owners of ECD centres must ensure that their staff were receiving support to deal with the stressors of working with children.
“ECD centres must also be equipped with closed-circuit television cameras as a safeguard for children and parents and as a deterrent for would-be perpetrators,” he said.
The Teddy Bear Foundation for Abused Children chief executive Dr Shaheda Omar said failure to report abuse was a criminal offence.
“According to the Children’s Act, there was a legal obligation of reporting abuse,” warned Omar. She said abuse in school occurs across the spectrum.
“There is not just one form of abuse. It’s physical abuse and emotional abuse. We find sexual abuse is also common,” she said. Omar said it was clear the teacher in the video intended to harm the child.
“Your police officer in the charge office isn’t equipped to deal with these cases and often don’t know how to deal with it,” she said.
Omar said Family Violence, Child Abuse, and Sexual Offences Unit was the correct law enforcement agency to report abuse to.