An eight-year-old Singaporean boy fractured two permanent teeth during a holiday activity, reported Singapore Chinese-language media, Lianhe Zaobao (Zaobao).
As his dental nerves were exposed for an extensive period of time, the boy would not be able to chew or consume sticky foods with the broken incisors henceforward, according to his mother, Ng Lai Yuk.
What happened, according to the mum
Speaking to Mothership, Ng shared that the incident happened at Little Earth Education, located at NTUC Income@Tampines Junction.
She has signed her child up for a 10-course holiday programme, which comprises multiple outdoor activities.
According to Ng, on Dec. 13, 2022, the day of the second lesson, she arrived at the education centre around 4pm to pick up her son, whose classes typically end at 3:30pm.
To her surprise, she said, her son only returned to the centre at 4:45pm.
"When the teacher brought my son back, he couldn't stop crying. Only then did the teacher inform me that he had fractured his incisors at the playground," claimed Ng.
Upon hearing this, Ng rushed to a dental clinic to have her son's teeth examined.
Ng said that most of the boy's two incisors were fractured, with the dental nerves for one of them exposed. As such, the dentist could only perform a temporary filling for his teeth for now, according to Ng. Once the boy reaches 21, when his skeletal system becomes fully developed, he could then replace his broken incisors with dental implants.
Her son was also advised not to consume food like pizzas and cookies to prevent causing his fillings from falling off, shared Ng.
Ng said that she had spent more than S$1,000 on her son's treatments by the time she spoke to Zaobao.
Mum claims the teacher failed to inform immediately
After researching her son's case online, Ng believed that if her son were to receive medical attention earlier, the dentist might have been able to restore his teeth.
She blamed the teachers for notifying her about the incident an hour later, claiming they were playing with their phones on the swing when the incident happened.
According to Ng, she was "at the centre nearby and would have been able to reach the playground in around 10 minutes" when the incident occurred. Should she have been alerted on time, she would have been able to bring her son to the dentist herself.
Education centre disagrees
Little Earth Education disputed Ng's allegations that the teachers were playing with their phones when the incident happened.
A spokesperson told Mothership:
"How can the child know [the] teachers [were] playing [with their phones] when he [was] falling down? It is impossible [for him to] see. We have other students [who can] testify."
On the contrary, the centre shared with Zaobao that the teachers were taking care of other students at the time, and the boy sneaked out of their sight to have fun elsewhere.
The centre's spokesperson told Mothership that when the teachers noticed the boy tripped and fell at around 3:45pm, they provided him "first aid in time", which "took around 20 minutes". After confirming that the boy had only injured his teeth and was able to walk, they returned to the centre together.
The teachers were "supposed to call the parents as soon as they reach the centre", but they notified her in person after noticing she was already waiting there.
Nevertheless, the centre understands the mother's frustrations:
"It was not uncommon for children to get injured. We are very sorry [that this incident happened], and we have been responding actively [to Ng's enquiries]."
Incident not covered by insurance
According to Zaobao, after the incident, Ng asked the centre whether her son was covered by any insurance.
The centre reportedly responded that they have only purchased such policies for students who are injured inside the premise. In other words, those who wound themselves outdoors would not be able to file a claim.
Furthermore, the insurance only covers long-term students and has its payout capped at S$500. As Ng's son was on a short course, by right, he would not be able to receive any compensation.
Ng questioned this lack of protection as the course also includes a trip to the Botanic Gardens via chartered bus. "This means that if any accidents happen during the outing, students on short courses are not protected."
She shared that she has subsequently contacted the Ministry of Education (MOE) to clarify the legality of such an arrangement.
Aftermath and compensation
After Zaobao reported the incident, Ng shared with Mothership that she had received a letter from Little Earth Education.
She claimed that the centre agreed to refund her the course fees of S$539 as per her request and even offered her son an additional compensation of S$500 voluntarily in the letter.
While she has received the refund for the course fees on Jan. 7, she has yet to respond to the letter because she is currently waiting for MOE's reply and is "unclear about the intentions [behind the offer]".
Speaking to Mothership, the centre explained that they are willing to pay for the initial treatment upon receiving and reviewing the invoice as "a gesture of goodwill" after knowing that the boy's parents had spent more than S$1,000 for his treatments.
However, the centre shared that his parents have yet to send them any receipts as of Jan. 9.
Top images via Ng Lai Yuk and Little Earth Education's Facebook page.