If you have a child at a creche you should be reading this …. ACTUALLY ALL PARENTS SHOULD READ THIS

Get a cup of tea, or several tequilas and sit down for this …. this has been rolling around in my head so much it has to come out.  Sorry, you are going to now know it and it can drive you insane.  It has been all consuming for several days now.

I have been trying to wrap my head around this.

I still have not quite got it, but it is weighing on me as a subject.

Recently I was talking to a woman.  In short she disclosed to me that she is HIV positive – it came out almost by accident.  It was part of a totally different story, so it was not an announcement.  It was in the context of a story and it was a detail in a story.

I will be honest I was not floored by her telling me she was HIV positive.  It was the knock on effects that made my eyes go a little wider and my mouth create that worried grimace, where only plastic surgery is going to get rid of the worry lines.

She is employed at a nursery/creche/pre-school school as a nursery/creche/pre-school teacher.

She is employed at a nursery school as a nursery school teacher when she does not have an ECD qualification — none.  She takes care of 12 small children (the amount might be out by 1 or 2).  By herself.

At a nursery/creche/pre-school in a fairly upmarket suburb.

I stared at her and asked her if her employer knew she was HIV positive and she said “no” …. I sat with this for a bit.

I am not HIV positive.

I have no way of knowing what her life is about or like.  I do not know what she has been through, her struggles, what she has overcome or what she has given up.  I am not passing judgement on her or her situation, or in any way indicating that I can truly empathize with her.  There is no way I know her and what her life must be like.  I do not have the ability or right to pass judgement on her.

{Context:  Back in 1994 I worked for a company and we did a lot of advertising material for the AIDS Training and Counselling Centres – as they were known then – throughout South Africa.  The various ATICCs approached us with very little information and it meant that we had to bone up very quickly on HIV and AIDS and create advertising material that was responsible, true and put the word out about how it was spread, and how it was not spread.  It meant we had to up skill ourselves quickly in an area we knew nothing about.  I had to go and buy condoms, dissect their wrappers, and look at the instructions of how to put them on safely and create drawings.  I had never been into a store to buy condoms before, so there I was with a plastic hand basket filled to the brim with condoms.  I try not to think too hard of the chemist assistant’s face as she was thinking what the hell I had planned for the rest of the week.   I embarked on a trip to London and to Amsterdam – by myself on short notice – to go and visit centers there to see how they got the word out. What images worked, what images didn’t and so on — I am not an HIV/AIDS expert, but I understand the framework I am working in as far as a lay person can.)

So back to the person I am talking to, for ease of use, let’s call her Tina.

I am looking at this as a parent. Of children.

All Tina wants to do is work with children – you can see on her face how she lights up when she talks about the children she has worked with and works with.  This is her passion.

I sat there quietly as she spoke.  Listening to her as the noise in my head got louder and louder.

I started looking at this situation in the context of (1) A business owner (2) A parent.

I said to her that if the creche owner did not know her status and if this came out – my concern is that the damage to Tina would be huge.

I said it is one thing for a parent to know and to agree to put a child into her class.

To find out later that the teacher was HIV positive and hide it from the school, that becomes the part where parents would lose their minds.  Parents (all parents) lose touch with reality around our kids — we do, we are wired that way to protect our children even when there is an implied, but non direct threat.

We lose our shit. We. Lose. Our. Shit. In the most unattractive manner.

We totally lose our ability to be rational, and kind, reasonable functioning people.  I think any teacher or principal who has had to deal with a parent in a “difficult situation” will testify to that.

I have lost my shit at a parent-teacher meeting where I was frothing at the mouth.  It was something so randomly irrelevant it is not even worth mentioning.

Parents be freaking crazy!  Like bat shit crazy.

We are talking about small children here.  An HIV positive teacher who has not been adequately reference checked — who is not being supervised in any way.  With small children.

Even though I know that the chance of transmission rate/likelihood is so small there is barely a number for it.  Even though — I know as a parent I would want to know.

Tina is aware of her status, is knowledgeable, healthy, and she takes precautions if there are open sores or a bleed. If you speak to her she is a rational, bright woman — but that said, at certain times in our conversation I found her ability to rationalize and look at a situation from other’s perspectives as deeply immature. Again I started to worry at this juncture.

I suggested to her that there is just no way that this would end well.  Just no way I could see this going in a direction with “well” at the end.

If a parent found out I would be frightened for her.  What they would do to her?

When they turned their anger towards the school, no doubt that school is not going to defend her — they are going to be in a fighting for their own survival.

If a parent found out, and then started really looking at the situation and how the creche recruits it could “sink” this creche, this small business would close in a month or two.  There is just no way a parent of an infant or a child, would accept this — and not totally lose the plot.

I know for a fact that the owner has NOT run a police clearance certificate on Tina.

Which may mean she has not run a police clearance certificate on any of the staff that are working with children.

A police clearance certificate is not 100% proof of future behaviour, but it will tell you if someone has committed a criminal offense before.

You would want to know this if you have people working with children — especially so at a creche.  There might a groundskeeper or what ever.  It is the basis for “allowing anyone near your children” – IT IS THE BASIS FOR ALLOWING ANYONE TO WORK WITH YOUR CHILD —- ASK FOR A POLICE CLEARANCE CERTIFICATE OR ARRANGE TO GET ONE RUN IF THEY DO NOT HAVE ONE.

This is where my horror started to mount — the owner of this creche has not done due diligence on Tina.  Either this means she has slipped up once, which happens.  Or she has not done this on any of her staff.

Now this is where I really started to feel violently uncomfortable.

I explained to Tina that this stuff has a way of getting out.

I have no idea who she has told and who knows what her status is.

The part where I got even more concerned is there was an incident at the previous creche she was at – technically speaking one would label this as assaulting a child.  Technically that would be the label.  If I described the situation, it sounds minor —- but I am a parent, any assault on a child sounds deafening when it hits my ears.

As a parent I know I would sh^t myself if I knew the person looking after my infant had this on their record — and was allowed to be unsupervised with 12 children (or what ever the number is).

There is no qualified teacher in the class with her acting as an assistant teacher where she is monitored.  She has been left on her own without a proper background check, no health check, no TB test, no other checks and no police clearance certificate.

But.

Here’s the big fat but — the incident at the previous school is something that occurred in a school that had cameras. After this incident the school had no option but to let her go.

They did not disclose this to the new employer when the employer called to check the reference.  I don’t think the new principal asked “has she ever hit or caused an injury to a child” — this should be a basic question when you are doing a reference.

The previous school should have done the right thing — but they didn’t — they wrote a glowing letter of reference and recommended her on to another creche.

Knowing everything I know. That what you now know.

There is so much wrong, unfair, grossly neglectful in this story that my brain wants to have a break from my spinal cord.

At the center of it is Tina, who is HIV positive — probably contracted when she was 23.  That is no life for anyone.  That is not fair on anyone.  Here is a woman who loves children to distraction — all she wants to do is work with children, that is all she wants to do.

But realistically, can she?  Does our social paranoia and our heightened awareness of everything around our children allow for this?

I asked Tina to approach her principal — to disclose this information on to her.  The principal has the right to know.  The parents have a right to know.  The parents must know.

Maybe the message here is for us as parents to not push the responsibility of due diligence onto those we entrust our children to.

I am not suggesting we freak out and go and do a mass burning.

I am suggesting we insist that we ask the principal of the school we have enrolled our children in for records of the teacher/s that will be looking after our children.

Reference checks, health checks and police clearance certificates checks – and anything else that would be relevant and legally available to us.  I am not sure what our rights are as parents versus the right to privacy of the teacher.

These records should exist for everyone who is at the school who has direct or indirect contact with the children.  Surely.

What do you think?

{Legally I cannot disclose Tina’s details, her school or approach her school — I can only encourage her to do this, but I cannot do this without her permission.  If you are a lawyer, and this is your area of expertise and you know differently please let me know.}

 

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