By Li Qian | 2012-10-26 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
POLICE detained two female teachers at a kindergarten in east China's Zhejiang Province yesterday for allegedly abusing students "for fun" and then posting online pictures of the abusive acts.
Yan Yanhong, 20, an unlicensed teacher, was seen in a picture smiling beside a crying boy she allegedly had lifted up nearly 20 centimeters by the ears. Other pictures posted to the Internet showed children, aged between four and five, with their mouths sealed by tape, dumped head-first in a trash can, with their clothes stripped off as they danced and made to kiss each other. There were no reports of injuries.
Yan allegedly wrote "It's fine!" beside the Internet pictures.
In interviews with local media, Yan said. "I just played with them at that time" and "It was great fun. The picture was so interesting!"
Yan and another teacher, Tong Qingqing, who took pictures instead of stopping the abuse, were dismissed by the privately run Blue Peacock Kindergarten in Wenling City as soon as the scandal made headlines on Wednesday.
"Yan asked me to take pictures and I did. I didn't expect that these pictures would pose such great social influence," Tong said in a TV interview.
Local education authorities have also ordered teachers of the kindergarten to apologize to every family of students in the class in which the incident took place.
Yan was detained "on charges of picking quarrels and provoking troubles," according to a statement from the Wenling city government. The maximum penalty for that charge is five years in prison.
Yan was accused of stirring up troubles because China's child-abuse laws only apply to family members, leaving a loophole, police said. Current laws regarding the protection of minors rely on school administrators and education authorities to punish teachers. However, these laws are not always strongly enforced.
It said Tong, who took the pictures and uploaded them, has been put under a seven-day administrative detention.
"She has problems in her moral quality," Wu Guojian, a local official, said of Yan. The kindergarten had failed to pass this year's educational evaluation, he added.
The kindergarten was ordered to rectify its practices. "Whether it will be closed down depends on how the rectification goes," the government's statement said.
Administrators of the kindergarten said they just heard about the case and couldn't provide any other details, Taizhou TV reported.
Two other cases of abuse of young children by teachers have come to light this week.
In Shanxi's provincial capital of Taiyuan, a five-year-old girl got dozens of slaps on the face within 10 minutes just because she couldn't add up 10 and one, media reports said. The teacher has been put under a 15-day detention, the preschool was ordered to shut down, and the 40-plus children were sent to other schools. The incidence has triggered an overhaul of preschools in Taiyuan.
A four-year-old boy in Shanxi's neighboring province of Shaanxi was cut on the wrist with a saw as punishment for not performing well when exercising.
Teachers in such cases usually get sacked, but the most severe punishment generally has been a 15-day administrative detention, according to media reports. Internet users said abuse won't be deterred by such light penalties.
"It would leave scars not only in the victims' hearts but also in other children," microblogger Chen Yuhang wrote. He also blamed education authorities for not supervising teachers and kindergartens well.
These scandals expose a lack of supervision and public investment in preschool education.
Government investment in preschool education accounts for just 1.2 percent of its total education expenditures, far less than the average of 6 to 8 percent in developed countries, according to Xinhua news agency.
Kindergartens are not part of China's nine-year compulsory eduction system, which enjoys strong government funding. A shortage of public kindergartens has led to the proliferation of private schools, which often lack the supervision implemented in public schools.
Cost-cutting and financial pressures lead many private kindergartens to pay their teachers less than their public counterparts. An education official in Wenling said private kindergarten teachers earn about 20,000 yuan (US$3,172) annually, just one-third of the average salary for public teachers.