“Your daughter is an emotional child.”
That is what Ninnie’s Neurons nursery school owner Janine Edwards told the mother (who may not be identified to protect her child) when she asked why her two-year-old cried every day when she arrived at the crèche in Carletonville, on the West Rand.
This week, five months after removing her daughter from Edwards’s school, Patricia saw a video showing how her little girl had been assaulted by a caregiver at the nursery school — and realised why her daughter had come home covered in bruises.
“The principal never bothered to investigate even after I complained to her. So I believe she’s also part of the problem and must account,” said Patricia.
She said her daughter began behaving strangely during her seven months at Ninnie’s Neurons. The nursery school was shut down by the Gauteng government this week after three videos emerged showing children being beaten.
“[My daughter] was just aggressive and came home most of the time with bruises on her body. The principal just rubbished my claims and said she got the bruises from falling, even after I had shown her that the marks on my daughter’s legs were actually fingerprints,” said Patricia.
Her child cried every morning when she was dropped off. “It just never got better and when I raised my concern with the principal, she just told me that my daughter was an emotional child,” the mother said.
In the video, the caregiver attempts to force Patricia’s crying child to sleep. The little girl attempts to get up, but is grabbed by the collar, thrown back onto the mattress and shoved onto the pillow.
Patricia’s daughter is in a new crèche and is much happier, says the mother. “She’s a happy child and no longer cries when I leave her at crèche in the morning.”
Another parent, Mpho Modise, said the principal called a meeting on March 28 and told parents about the videos but refused to show them.
“She said she had opened a case with the police. But when I saw what I saw on social media, I was really furious because the principal made it to sound like it’s a small thing,” he said.
Another parent said she took her now two-year-old daughter out of the school at the end of January.
“She was always angry and had an aggressive behaviour, which I found out of her character because she had always been a sweet little girl,” the mother said.
Other parents from the crèche spent Friday looking for alternative nursery schools. Ntombikayise Khuzwayo, a municipal administration officer, said she had faced a “daunting task” in finding a place for her five-year-old son.
“I’ve been to three nursery schools closer to our home and none of them have space at the moment,” she said at the locked gates of Ninnie’s Neurons.
Khuzwayo’s son had attended the nursery school for two years. “It was highly recommended by people in the area who all said they offered the best care,” she said.
On Thursday, Gauteng social development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza said she had closed Ninnie’s Neurons after discovering its licence had expired.
Her spokesperson, Thebe Mohatle, said social workers were compiling a list of early childhood development centres in the neighbourhood to help parents.
A woman who introduced herself as Maralise, and claimed to be Edwards’s friend, said the crèche owner was in hiding after receiving death threats.
“Janine really loved kids and would never allow such things to happen under her watch. You can see that she reported that teacher [in the video] to the police immediately after being aware of her evil acts on the children,” she said.
Edwards’s lawyer, Danie van Zyl, said a former employee shared the videos with parents after being fired. He said Edwards had not been aware of the alleged abuse.
Gauteng police spokesperson Mathapelo Peters said a caregiver, Nellie Senwametsi, 40, has been charged with assaulting a minor. She was released on bail after a hearing and will appear in court again on May 7.
– Sunday Times