Disabled kid bashed at crèche ‘doesn’t want to be alone’
Mum describes child's trauma as rights commission grills staff at Joburg childcare centre
The 11-year-old disabled girl who was seen being kicked by a caregiver at a Fourways crèche has been more “clingy” than usual.
Her mother, who does not want to be named, told the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Wednesday that the child did not want to be alone in her room after the incident.
The SAHRC visited the Kindecaire crèche unannounced on Wednesday.
A cellphone video recording showed the girl, who has the intellectual ability of an eight-month-old, being kicked, hit and slammed on her head with a schoolbag, allegedly by her caregiver of four years, who accompanied her to school daily. The girl cannot talk and needs permanent supervision because she bites herself.
A nurse from the school was the whistleblower who filmed the incident, because she was concerned about how the children were being treated.
The girl’s mother said she and her ex-husband – not the school – employed the carer. “Never in our wildest dreams did we think she would do something like this.”
The carer has taken them to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) after they fired her following the incident.
The police and the Gauteng department of social development also visited the crèche on Wednesday.
Bill Pansegrauw, husband of Dr Diane Pansegrauw, who runs the crèche, said the school had been inundated with media calls and visits from authorities.
“We have been putting out fires non-stop.”
Bill was busy installing cameras when the SAHRC team arrived on Wednesday morning.
He apologised for what happened, saying they trusted the people they employed.
He said the school was open to inspection.
“If any parents want to view the place, they can come and have a look. We are not running a secret organisation. We have taken all the steps we could to prevent this ever happening again. We are open to suggestions.”
SAHRC adviser Omolara Asuni wanted to know why the receptionist, who is seen halfway through the video, did not intervene when the child was hit.
The staff told the SAHRC the receptionist is intellectually disabled and in sheltered employment. She follows instructions but doesn’t have her own initiative, it emerged in discussions.
Asuni heard the nurse who recorded the video has since been suspended. Her hearing is on Thursday and she will be represented by lawyers.
SAHRC legal officer Matthew du Plessis asked for the school’s e-mail address so he could request to see legal documents. Bill could not provide it, saying it is Diane’s crèche and he didn’t know what it was. She runs a doctor’s practice nearby and is in charge of the crèche.
Among the documents Du Plessis wants from the crèche is its registration certificates.
The SAHRC suggested the crèche become legally compliant and register with the department of health because it has mentally disabled people, as well as the department of social development since it is also a crèche.
Staff admitted it also served as a day crèche for children too sick with flu or tummy bugs to attend their regular nursery school but still need supervision if their parents can’t get time off work.
These sick children are cared for on the same premises as children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities.
It also emerged that an ordinary aftercare for healthy primary school children runs on the same premises every afternoon.
Lawyers from the commission wanted to know what kind of training staff at the crèche had, and suggested they be sent for more training in caregiving.
Commissioner Joseph Malatji suggested a code of conduct be drawn up.
The three disabled children who are being looked after do not appear to have much stimulation and are left lying on their beds or sitting in wheelchairs while staff drink tea. There are not many toys visible, no artwork and no children’s music playing.
Educational psychologist from Pretoria University Professor Kobus Maree said there was no excuse not to stimulate disabled children.
“We can appeal to any person’s five senses to activate and stimulate them. This can have good results with disabled people. You can let them smell different things and let them touch things, like fabrics with different textures.”
It was easy to find things to do. “People must do their homework, visit other NGOs and use Google to get ideas.”
He suggested playing music for them and giving them rattles to help them participate.
Toys like blocks were also good to knock down or play with.
Maree said pictures and mobiles hanging from the ceiling would also appeal to disabled people’s sense of sight, while finger painting would appeal to their sense of touch.