By Constantinos Psillides
The mother of a four-year-old girl claimed in a letter addressed to the Education ministry on Tuesday that her daughter was sexually harassed by three boys in pre-school, accusing the ministry of not handling the incident properly and trying to cover up for the teachers.
In her letter, she claims the three four-year-old boys held her daughter down while in the toilets and sexually harassed her. She also claims that her daughter is not the only girl who has been harassed in the class.
The mother also claims that this is not the first time a case of sexual harassment has been reported in the school. A year ago a four-year-old sexually harassed other children – according to the mother – which prompted parents to first contact the ministry.
The child was removed from the school by his parents and enrolled in another pre-school.
The mother claims that following the first incident the pre-school teacher instructed all children not to tell their parents of any incident of a similar nature but instead to report it to her alone.
The mother said that the parents only found out about it after questioning their children.
The education ministry issued a statement in response saying they are fully aware of the incident and that a probe has been launched to determine whether the accusations laid against the teacher are true and whether she neglected her duties.
The ministry pointed out that this is a sensitive issue and should be treated as such. “Children of this age are often overcome by curiosity in matters of sexuality, which is natural,” the statement said.
“Sometimes though things are more serious than they look. It is for this reason that the ministry makes all of its resources available to children and their parents and has ordered for a full investigation to determine if anyone is to blame.”
Head of primary education Elpidoforos Neocleous also asked for caution in dealing with the issue, making clear that under no circumstance was any child sexually abused and explained that children at this age are not fully aware of their actions.
Neocleous also spoke of the incident that took place last year.
“It was an innocent game. One of the boys used to harass both girls and boys while playing with them. When his behaviour was reported we took the parents aside and advised them to seek help to find out why their child was acting in such a manner. They decided to enrol him in a different school and heeded our advice. The boy now is absolutely fine,” Neocleous said, adding that he personally instructed the teachers of the pre-school to monitor kids more closely and to not leave them unattended.
“The full report will be on my desk by the end of the week. If indeed the teachers are to blame then you can rest assured that proper disciplinary action will be taken. We are not sweeping anything under the rug. We want incidents like that reported so they can be handled by professionals,” he said.
Neocleous pointed out that once the second incident was reported, the ministry decided to dispatch a second teacher to monitor the class and arranged for a psychologist to visit the school and assess the situation.