S'porean defends fellow preschool teachers blamed for new Covid-19 cluster

"Sometimes we allowed our emotions to take over us and we forgot to be kind to one another."

Zhangxin Zheng | March 27, 2020, 03:36 PM

There have been a recent spike in both imported and local cases.

Preschool cluster linked to 20 cases

Notably, the cluster linked to one preschool centre, PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots @ Fengshan, has grown into the third largest cluster in Singapore in two days. 20 cases are linked to this cluster as of March 26's update.

As a result, all 360 PCF Sparkletots centres were closed for three days.

30 PCF staff members have been quarantined after coming into close contact with the principal. All staff and children of the Fengshan centre have also been placed on quarantine for 14 days while contact tracing is ongoing.

Early Childhood Development Agency and PCF are looking into the matter and an internal committee of inquiry has been formed to investigate and they will take "appropriate staff disciplinary action where warranted", according to PCF's Chief Executive Officer, Victor Bay.

"Nobody wanted this to happen"

With 15 staff members, including a principal, reported with Covid-19 in two days, the cluster has sparked much speculations with comments blaming the teachers involved for what has happened.

In response to the backlash, one preschool teacher, Muhammad Hadi, went on Facebook to appeal for more empathy towards preschool teachers as "nobody wanted this to happen".

Hadi wrote that while he empathised with those who have been affected by the new cluster, he disagrees with taking disciplinary actions against the staff members involved and blaming them for the spread of Covid-19.

Speaking to Mothership, Hadi shared that the PCF teachers were activated at night to inform parents about the closure.

Besides reading nasty comments from netizens, preschool staff members are also getting unnecessary stares and distancing from the general public when they are out in their uniforms over the past two days.

"Despite most of us not being in the same centre or even organization, we could totally understand what those affected ones were going through. We felt that it was unfair to put the blame on them as everybody has a part to play in this."

Don't want to be a burden

As a preschool teacher for over three years, the 27-year-old shared that the preschool staff on the ground have been active in giving feedback.

However, their opinions are not often taken seriously:

"The ground levels like us, have been voicing out about things that mattered. But often, we will be given sarcastic responses or what we have been voicing out will be brushed aside."

Hadi also highlighted that it is common for preschool staff to go to work when they are mildly unwell prior to the Covid-19 outbreak

It's not because they want to be socially irresponsible but they do not want to trouble others with their absence.

The pressure does not only come from the supervisors but also from the parents which deter them from taking sick leave.

"If we were to take on medical leave, there are definitely a lot of things for us to consider. Who is going to take care of the children? Who is covering our class? How are the lessons going to be conducted?

Just like what MP Desmond Lee mentioned in his speech to the press. We don't only serve the children, but also parents as well."

Uncooperative parents

Hadi also highlighted some instances when they have to handle parents who still send their children to school even though they are unwell or refuse to submit travel declarations.

He also recalled parents who threatened to lodge complaints about the teachers to the Members of the Parliament or even ECDA when their children were denied from entering the school.

Urge people to be kind to preschool teachers and frontline workers

At the end of his post, Hadi wrote that it is "frustrating" to see the negative comments as the teachers always "put the children first".

He also thanked the Minister of Social and Family Development, Desmond Lee, for speaking fairly for early childhood educators.

"I have to thank him for speaking on behalf of us in pointing out that there should not be any blame towards the principal or teachers. He also assured the public that preschools have been following the precautionary measures since this virus came about such as educating the children about it and always being vigilant towards safety and hygiene.

Parents and the general public need to understand that preschools are the core system in the community, to serve not only children but also parents as well. We do have a lot of parents who are frontliners as well and without us frontliners, Singapore could not operate normally."

Lastly, he urged Singaporeans to be more understanding and encouraged early childhood educators to keep up with the hard work and press on.

"Sometimes we allowed our emotions to take over us and we forgot to be kind to one another. We should put ourselves in each other shoes and see in the perspectives of others so we can understand one another better."

Hadi said that even small gestures like saying "thank you" or a smile can make frontline workers feel better during this trying period.

You can read his full post here:

Top photo by Fasiha Nazren