Monday 19 August 2019

Chinese parents demand answers to nursery abuse claims

A woman leaves with a child after saying she came to withdraw the child from the RYB kindergarten in Beijing (AP/Ng Han Guan)
A woman leaves with a child after saying she came to withdraw the child from the RYB kindergarten in Beijing (AP/Ng Han Guan)

Dozens of upset parents gathered Friday outside a nursery in Beijing to demand answers after reports alleged some children had been abused and molested.

The case has drawn widespread attention in China and triggered outrage over potential lapses in supervision in the booming private pre-school industry.

The scandal erupted after influential news magazine Caixin and other Chinese media quoted some parents as saying their children were molested, forced to strip as punishment, found with unexplained apparent needle marks on their bodies and made to take unidentified white pills.

The Beijing Municipal Commission of Education said it would inspect other nurseries in the Chinese capital, while the company that runs the pre-school, Beijing-based RYB Education, said in a statement it has suspended three teachers.

It promised to co-operate with police in a thorough investigation and vowed "zero tolerance" for abusive staff.

It is the latest case involving schools to spark outrage in China.

"Laws must be enforced, supervision strengthened, teacher wages increased," an editorial by the official Xinhua News Agency said.

"The childcare industry cannot be allowed to grow in an uncivilised fashion."

Earlier this month, surveillance video emerged of abuse at a Shanghai daycare centre run by China's largest online travel company, Ctrip.

The video, uploaded by angry parents on Chinese social media, showed teachers slapping a crying girl, pushing a toddler to the ground, and force-feeding students a substance later confirmed to be wasabi.

In April, RYB Education suspended the headmaster and two teachers at another branch in Beijing after a video of a teacher kicking children was widely shared online.

On Friday morning, a group of parents waited for answers outside the Xintiandi school gate while other parents led their children past reporters and security agents to the doors.

"We need clarification. As parents, we have the right to question the school, don't we?" said a father who gave only his surname, Wang.

In its statement, RYB suggested it was the victim of false accusations by an "individual" and said it raised this with police.

Concern rippled beyond families at the school. Pictures of alleged injuries were widely shared by users of China's WeChat messaging service before the country's internet censors started deleting posts.

"This is quite terrifying," said Zhang Yang, a mother in Beijing whose children do not attend RYB schools. She said the allegations were alarming because they were being made against a well-known private institution.

"All my friends went home and asked their children if they've ever been given medications or injected," Ms Zhang said. "Mothers are at a loss for what to do."

RYB and its franchisees operate 1,300 daycare centres and nearly 500 nurseries in 300 Chinese cities, according to its website.

The company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in September, joining other Chinese providers capitalising on rising demand from the country's emerging middle class for educational services.


PA Media

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