Police detain teacher after accusations of abuse at Beijing kindergarten

China's cabinet orders nationwide investigation into pre-school facilities

A father picks up his child from RYB Kindergarten in Xintiandi, Beijing: a female teacher (22)   has been detained on suspicion of abusing children at the kindergarten. Photograph: Bryan Denton/The New York Times

A father picks up his child from RYB Kindergarten in Xintiandi, Beijing: a female teacher (22) has been detained on suspicion of abusing children at the kindergarten. Photograph: Bryan Denton/The New York Times

 

Police have detained a 22-year-old teacher suspected of abusing children at a Beijing kindergarten, as China was still reeling from a series of accusations of abuse at pre-school facilities.

Last week, parents at the Xintiandi kindergarten run by the large education provider RYB Education told the news magazine Caixin that toddlers were found with needle-marks on their bodies, were drugged before nap time and were forced to strip as punishment.

The report was the latest in a series of revelations about conditions at nurseries in China, including reports of physical abuse and force-feeding with spicy wasabi sauce as punishment in a Shanghai day-care centre.

The day-care industry has grown fast as China’s middle class expands. According to data from the education ministry, there were 239,800 kindergartens in China last year, up 59 per cent on 2010.

Police in Beijing’s Chaoyang district said in a statement on their website that their investigation had led to the criminal detention of a 22-year-old female teacher on suspicion of abusing children. She was identified by her surname Liu but gave no details about what abuses she is suspected of committing.

‘Dereliction of duty’

RYB Education describing the incident as a “serious dereliction of duty”, said in a statement: “We express sincere apologies to the children involved in this case, their families and the broader society.”

The company had fired Ms Liu and removed the principal of the kindergarten. It was also bringing in doctors and psychologists to assess the children affected, and was examining its other operations around the country. RYB operates 1,300 day-care centres and nearly 500 kindergartens in 300 Chinese cities.

The police also said a 31-year-old woman had been detained for spreading false information about the involvement of a military regiment in sexually abusing the children.

According to the statement, the woman, who is also called Liu, had “deeply regretted” her actions.

China’s cabinet, the state council, has ordered a nationwide inspection of kindergartens.

Recent incidents had shown “that some kindergartens have failed to implement proper security measures and are poorly managed,” according to a state council statement.

Poorly regulated

Education experts speaking to local media said the main problem was that private outlets were poorly regulated and monitored.

“Day-cares, pre-schools and kindergartens have become a lucrative industry in China, but some are poorly regulated,” Xiong Bingqi, deputy head of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, told the Global Times newspaper.

“Most private kindergartens are franchised outlets of widely-known, branded kindergartens, and the founders and investors of these outlets are not required to demonstrate they possess relevant qualifications,” said Xiong.

Education is something for which Chinese people are willing to pay, and several generations of whole families will contribute towards costs. Private kindergartens have a higher number of teachers and have had good reputations.

In Beijing, many kindergartens cost over 5,000 yuan (€635) a month, while state-run pre-school facilities are capped at 1,050 yuan (€133) a month.

However, places are much sought-after at the state kindergartens, and also many people working in Beijing do not have a hukou, or residence permit, which means their children cannot study in the capital.

The ministry of education reports that only half of kindergarten teachers are certified professionals and local teachers and support staff are often paid low wages.