Nursery owner ties up ‘noisy’ child

By ‘Mantoetse Maama

MASERU –– The police are investigating the alleged abuse of a 15-month-old child at a nursery (name withheld) located in the Thetsane area.
A parent who said she caught the woman “red-handed” on Monday allegedly abusing the child, told the Lesotho Times how she found the boy strapped to the bed, his mouth sealed with tape and hands tied behind his back.

“I had gone to drop my child at the centre yesterday, when I found one of the toddlers fastened to the bed. His hands were also fastened behind his back, and his mouth was covered with tape. When I asked the owner of the centre about it, she said the baby was very noisy as he cried a lot for no apparent reason.
“She complained that even when he is not hungry, the boy cries so much, thereby waking up the other babies in the room or class, hence she had taped his mouth and tied him to the bed. I was in a hurry so I did not mind but later that day, this bothered me because I had noticed some strange things on my own child but had never suspected she was being abused. Sometimes I would find my baby with bruises on her body, but could not get answers until yesterday’s incident,” the parent, who spoke on condition of anonymity on Tuesday told the Lesotho Times.

When the Lesotho Times crew visited the run-down nursery on Tuesday, the police were just leaving the facility after interviewing the owner and allegedly taking her “certificate” of operation.
The woman, however, denied any form of child-abuse takes place at the school she opened in October 2013, and currently enrols nine children aged between one month and two years. The nursery, she insisted, is registered with the Ministry of Education, and charges M200 per month per child.

She said: “When the police arrived here this morning, they found one of the children fastened to the bed. They warned me that what I was doing was illegal and also took my operating certificate. It was the first time I had roped any of the children to the bed like that.”

According to the woman, she had only tied-up the child because she was going to have a bath and did not want him to wake up the other kids who were already asleep.
“I wanted to go and have a bath but the child was awake, unlike the others who were all asleep. Because I didn’t want him to wake up the other children, I ended up tying him up.
“But the police asked why I was not having a bath in the classroom where I could monitor the kids easily. I told them it would not be appropriate to bath in a classroom,” she said.
The woman said she would never ill-treat a child as she was also a mother.
“I have children of my own, so I would never ill-treat a child. If I didn’t like this child, I would not let his parents bring him here.
“I innocently tied him there and it was the first time I had done it but unfortunately, the police found him roped.
“Apparently, the police were informed that I abuse these children but believe me, these are just people who want to destroy my reputation.
“I have good relations with the parents and they have never complained before. When they are not happy they are free to confront me.”

The woman said her school always has children, which she claimed was testimony to her good reputation.
Meanwhile, the head of Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) in Thetsane, Jack Tlhopane, said he was “shocked and disappointed” at what had allegedly taken place at the aforementioned nursery.
“I don’t want to lie to you, ‘M’e, but what you have done is very bad. That child has a right to freedom of movement and by tying him up like that, you were actually abusing him,” Tlhopane told the pensive owner.
“My responsibility is to monitor and facilitate the ECCDs in this area. We hold training for these people who are running the nurseries. We once invited a nurse from the local clinic who warned them that there are children who are taken to their clinic with nappy-rush and sometimes even bruised, due to neglect. The nurse warned them about child-abuse and they seemed to be understanding. I never thought the nurses’ allegations were true.”

The Ministry of Education Public Relations Officer, ‘Mamolise Falatsa yesterday said she was aware of the case.
“The ECCD department is currently working on the issue. After the Easter holidays, officials from our ministry will meet with the owner of the school to discuss this issue,” Falatsa said.
Falatsa, however, denied the nursery is registered with the ministry.
“The certificate the owner was referring to is from her local chief, which gives her the authority to operate in the village.”

Senior Inspector Bakoena Sephula, said the police who had gone to investigate the abuse claims were shocked to find the baby strapped to the bed.
“Police officers who went to the nursery on Tuesday morning found the baby tied to the bed.
“ owner claimed the baby refuses to sleep when the rest of the class sleeps and he wakes up the other babies. She will be charged for contravening Section 44 of the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2011,” Sephula said.


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