Johannesburg - A Turffontein mother was left fuming after she arrived at her child’s daycare centre to find him locked in a dark cupboard as punishment for making a noise.
The five-year-old was left so traumatised after being locked up for hours that he has now refused to return to the non-profit Cotlands daycare centre, which he attends on Mondays and Wednesdays.
“(That night) he screamed “please don’t leave me”. He didn’t want to sit alone,” his mother said on Wednesday.
She dropped her son off at the centre on Monday morning and returned early in the afternoon for a parents’ meeting, but he was not among the other children.
When they saw her, the daycare supervisors suddenly remembered her son and fetched him from a storage cupboard in his classroom, she said.
The child had also not been fed with the rest of the children. “He was stiff, he didn’t want to look at me, he just cried,” said the mother, whose name The Star has withheld to protect the boy’s identity.
On Wednesday, the boy was reluctant to speak. When asked where the daycare teachers had put him, he responded “the rats’ room”.
But Cotlands said the child was only given a standard timeout of five minutes, an amount of time the daycare staff impose for “disruptive” children, depending on their age.
The cupboard door doesn’t have a lock, and Monica Stach, Cotlands’ chief operating officer, said it wasn’t closed.
“When we do timeouts, it’s done in the same space as the other children,” she said.
The worker who was supervising the children has been suspended for leaving the child unattended after the other children went to lunch, which is against Cotlands’ discipline policy, Stach pointed out.
She explained that the supervisor sometimes threatened the children by telling them there were rats in the cupboard, a practice which she said Cotlands did not endorse.
The mother told The Star the child would have been forgotten in the cupboard all day if she hadn’t showed up for the parents’ meeting.
Her son was very traumatised and was refusing to return to the daycare centre. She fears he will not want to go back there when she finds work and is unable to stay at home with him.
Stach has urged the family to meet with the Cotlands staff in an attempt to resolve the matter in private.