Sam's Early Learning Centre alleged child abuse (2017)

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Origins of online hoax[edit | edit source]

One of the photographs that had been circulated on Wechat. Photo from weixin.qq.com.
Another photograph showing a messy kitchen top in the centre. Photo from Wechat user Singapore Tong.

On 14 February 2017, a series of four allegedly incriminating photographs involving a childcare centre in Singapore had been circulated on the Chinese social media application Wechat.[1] The childcare centre in question was Sam's Early Learning Centre. These photographs were accompanied by text captions, accusing the centre of child abuse and negligence.[2]


One of the photographs pictured young children lying on the floor without mattresses. A second photograph showed a messy and dirty kitchen counter top. The allegedly "rotten" fruit on the counter had been fed to the children. Another photograph pictured a child lying in a cot with faecal matter around him, which he had allegedly “eaten”. A fourth photograph pictured the contents of a black trash bag.[3] The user claimed that the centre's teachers had not prepared milk for a child under their care with the milk powder given to them by the child’s parents, throwing away the milk powder instead.[4] The user who had circulated the photographs stated that they were taken in Sam’s Early Learning Centre.[5]

Sam’s Early Learning Centre response[edit | edit source]

Sam’s Early Learning Centre’s director Samia El-Ibiary verified that the photographs circulated on Wechat were of the centre. However, she expressed that they were taken in 2016, and portrayed the childcare centre unfairly.[6] She stated that the user who had posted the photographs was believed to be an unhappy former female employee. The employee had returned to China on 14 February 2017, the same day that she posted the photographs online. In a Today article, Samia El-Ibiary refuted the claims of negligence by explaining the context of each photograph individually.[7]

  1. The children lying on the floor without mattresses - They were actually doing stretching and breathing exercises.
  2. The messy kitchen top with "rotten" fruit - The fruits in the photographs were uncut fruits that were not served to the children, and the centre throws away fruits if they have gone bad.
  3. The toddler in the cot - The toddler in the photograph had a habit of pulling off his diapers while asleep, typically when experiencing bowel movement. The teachers had asked the cleaner employed by the centre to clean the child. The toddler no longer attends the centre as he and his family have since left Singapore.
  4. The milk that had been thrown away - The milk powder was thrown away as it had spilled on the floor and could not be used.

Confirmation of fake news[edit | edit source]

Early Childcare Development Agency (ECDA)[edit | edit source]

On 22 February 2017, the ECDA stated that they had investigated the online claims against Sam’s Early Learning Centre. The ECDA is the main body which oversees the operation of childcare centres in Singapore. An ECDA spokesperson explained that the investigation procedures consisted of unplanned centre visits, document verification and interviews with the parents, children, and staff of the centre.[8]


The ECDA confirmed that "the photographs appear to have been taken out of context”.[9] They stated that their findings were in line with the explanations given by Sam's Early Learning Centre's director Samia El-Ibiary. They also added that the parents of the children enrolled in the centre had not given any negative comments about the standards of the centre since the online claims had surfaced.


35 parents whose children attended Sam’s Early Learning Centre signed a letter to show support for the centre against the online allegations.[10] Since 2001, Sam’s Early Learning Centre had been issued 24-month license tenures, which is the longest term permitted by the ECDA.[11] This license tenure indicates that the centre upholds high standards in its operations.

References / Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. Toh, Wen Li. “No signs of abuse at pre-school centre”. The Straits Times. February 23, 2017. Accessed on 26 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/no-signs-of-abuse-at-pre-school-centre
  2. ASIAONE."River Valley chilcare centre denies child abuse allegations". ASIAONE. February 22, 2017. Accessed on 4 April 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.asiaone.com/singapore/river-valley-childcare-centre-denies-child-abuse-allegations
  3. “Childcare centre in River Valley denies abuse allegations”. Channel NewsAsia. February 22, 2017. Accessed on 26 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/childcare-centre-in-river-valley-denies-abuse-allegations-7542104
  4. “Childcare centre in River Valley denies abuse allegations”. Channel NewsAsia. February 22, 2017. Accessed on 26 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/childcare-centre-in-river-valley-denies-abuse-allegations-7542104
  5. Toh, Wen Li. “No signs of abuse at pre-school centre”. The Straits Times. February 23, 2017. Accessed on 26 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/no-signs-of-abuse-at-pre-school-centre
  6. Toh, Ee Ming. “ECDA clears childcare centre; photos ‘used out of context’”. Today Online. February 23, 2017. Accessed on 26 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/photos-childcare-centre-taken-out-context-ecda
  7. Toh, Ee Ming. “ECDA clears childcare centre; photos ‘used out of context’”. Today Online. February 23, 2017. Accessed on 26 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/photos-childcare-centre-taken-out-context-ecda
  8. Toh, Wen Li. “No signs of abuse at pre-school centre”. The Straits Times. February 23, 2017. Accessed on 26 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/no-signs-of-abuse-at-pre-school-centre
  9. Toh, Wen Li. “No signs of abuse at pre-school centre”. The Straits Times. February 23, 2017. Accessed on 26 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/no-signs-of-abuse-at-pre-school-centre
  10. Toh, Wen Li. “Parents of children at Sam's Early Learning Centre sign letter in show of support”. The Straits Times. February 23, 2017. Accessed on 26 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/parents-of-children-at-sams-early-learning-centre-sign-letter-in-show-of-support
  11. Toh, Wen Li. “No signs of abuse at pre-school centre”. The Straits Times. February 23, 2017. Accessed on 26 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/no-signs-of-abuse-at-pre-school-centre