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PETALING JAYA: Despite having laws in place to combat child abuse and negligence, such cases continue to happen because parents, guardians and, to a certain extent, teachers do not know what is considered as abuse and negligence, say stakeholders.

Some are unaware of the consequences of their actions and the fact that they are punishable by law.

They also said the government must come up with a standard operating procedure (SOP) for kindergartens on child safety and protection from abuse and negligence.

Suriana Welfare Society chairman Dr James Nayagam said his findings through his social work, especially in People’s Housing Projects (PPR), showed that many residents and community leaders were unaware of child abuse until the seriousness of it was conveyed to them.

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“The situation simply shows that the message of child abuse has not reached the community. That is why it is happening. Even though you have the law and there are punishments, to them, these are only on paper.

“As long as they are uninformed, these things will keep occurring because of low awareness,” he said.

Nayagam called on the government to conduct roadshows and mobilise people to the ground to create awareness of such abuse.

“If the government is facing a manpower crunch, it should outsource the job and work with non-governmental organisations which have the expertise to do so and monitor the situation on the ground,” he said.

Having conducted audits on kindergartens, Nayagam said many did not have SOP on aspects like child safety, prevention of abuse and disclipline of staff, adding that the SOP in place was generally confined to management as well as fire and building safety.

“Most kindergartens are not audited for the safety of the children. The danger is that they sweep things under the carpet,” he said.

He urged the government to come up with SOP in this area “without delay”.

Nayagam was asked to comment on laws to protect children in light of recent cases of abuse or neglect, and what more could be done to ensure their safety in schools and at home.

Last week, a kindergarten teacher in Ipoh claimed trial to a charge of leaving a child without reasonable supervision that led to the four-year-old boy’s death five days after he fell into a swimming pool in April.

Also in Ipoh last week, two daycare teachers were accused of intentionally causing physical harm to five children while a daycare owner was accused of leaving a two-year-old girl unattended, which led to an injury. All three pleaded not guilty in court.

Earlier this month in Melaka, a man was arrested after his girlfriend’s three-year-old son, who was reportedly sick at the time, died after he allegedly kicked and beaten up the child for vomiting on his favourite sofa.

Malaysian Kindergarten Teachers Association national president Sally Ng agreed that there must be documented guidelines on the safety aspects, although qualified teachers of early childhood had gone through courses on laws such as the Child Act, detection of abuse as well as safety.

She added that principals and kindergarten operators would also inform staff of the dos and don’ts, the laws and the punishments.

“Principals and teachers need to learn to recognise and identify abuse, neglect, learning disorders and others disabilities which are not so visible.

“We are responsible and legally required to take action and report our suspicions to the proper authorities, although situations like these are challenging for all parties involved,” she said, adding that some might choose not to act due to fear or to avoid complications.

Ng reminded parents to make sure that they enrolled their children in registered kindergartens.


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