Cape Town - Ten crèches in the Western Cape have been shut down in the past two years, pointing to growing concerns over complaints involving the care of children in local facilities.

Melany Kuhn, spokeswoman for Social Development MEC Albert Fritz, said she could not supply specific information about the closures, but she stressed that local Early Childhood Development Centres were required to conform with a number of norms and standards.

Complaints vary from compliance to municipal requirements, and norms and standards as per the Children’s Act.

“The issues range from the food, to the number of qualifications of teachers, management, etc. Each complaint is dealt with individually on its own merits.”

Kuhn added that they had not received any complaints similar to the one about the child which was found bound and gagged at a crèche in Joburg last week.

Newspaper reports over the past five years highlight some of the high-profile cases across the country:

* In November last year a woman was arrested in Mamelodi, Gauteng, after 16 children in her facility fell ill from eating an aloe extract that resulted in severe vomiting and diarrhoea. Two of the children were in a critical condition, with one child airlifted to a nearby Joburg hospital.

* A 64-year-old man, Desmond Krige, was arrested in May last year on allegations of sexually assaulting and raping girls at the Little Angels Edu-care Centre in Athlone. Some cases dated back as far as 10 years. Krige allegedly fondled the young girls as he drove them home or during playtime.

The crèche was taken over by Krige’s daughter after his wife died, but was closed by the department after the allegations.

* The death of a seven-month-old baby at the Grow Up and Learn crèche in Joburg prompted an investigation into the 14-year-old establishment last year.

Seven-month-old Mpendulo Ndlovu was found dead after the children were put down for a nap. A case was opened at the Johannesburg police station and police investigated.

* In June 2012, a 15-month-old child was beaten at an upmarket crèche in Pietermaritzburg. The child’s mother noticed bruises on her baby’s thighs and buttocks, and a former employee at the Baby Steps daycare centre alleged the owner was quite rough with the children, hitting them and pushing them around at times. The owner later confirmed the assault of the child, but denied the other allegations.

* In 2011, the parents of three four-year-old girls began to suspect that their children were being sexually assaulted at the crèche they attended in Melkbosstrand. The children were immediately taken out of the establishment by their parents and the matter reported to the police. At the time the crèche was unregistered.

* The death of a seven-month-old baby, Pation Julie, at an unregistered Mitchells Plain crèche in November 2010 came five months after another infant, five-month-old Ava Rose Barley, had died after falling off a bed at a crèche in Pinelands.

* Also in 2011, Monica Helm, owner of the Kinderland crèche in Cape Town, was found guilty of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm by endangering and exposing minors to drugs, after she sedated toddlers with a home-made solution containing sleeping pills.

Kuhn said that in cases where child abuse was reported, thorough investigations were done.

“There has on occasion been a case of alleged child abuse, and in such cases thorough investigations were done and facilities were closed where necessary.

“Parents were then assisted to find alternative care for their children,” she said.

Weekend Argus