Home staff accused of using children

2014-04-17 00:00

PROTESTS at Pietermaritzburg Children’s Home resumed yesterday, with management saying it suspected that disgruntled staff were manipulating the children for their own ends.

The children at the centre in Woodlands, who first protested last week complaining about their food and clothing, were joined by staff yesterday.

This time they complained about the failure of the management to address the concerns they raised last week.

It was also alleged that the children were assaulted by police, who demanded information on who was behind the strike.

This the management denied, saying it was not true that children had been assaulted — what was at play was that staff had influenced the children to protest.

A staff member, Vuyi Dlamini, said they wanted the centre manager, Fiona Balgobind, to leave because they were unhappy with how she had run the home in the past three years.

Dlamini said they had no choice but to give the children rotten food, while fresh food was kept in the fridges only to be shown to inspectors.

“Fiona is the one who was using police to threaten children to speak out, and if they refused they were beaten up,” she said.

Balgobind denied serving rotten food and said the staff were unhappy because she had been implementing regulations and telling them to comply with the 2015 deadline to attain child-care qualifications, as required by the Social Development Department.

She said the staff were also responsible for communicating the children’s concerns to the management.

“For instance, when children need new uniforms, they tell the child-care workers, who are then supposed to inform the manager so that the matter can be followed up, but they don’t do so,” Balgo­bind said.

The spokesperson of the home’s board, Dev Naidoo, said they would have to close the institution if the situation persists because they do not want the children being manipulated by the workers.

“We are aware that staff members have been manipulating these children to behave violently,” he said.

Naidoo said the home had fixed 67 windows in the past year and the surveillance cameras, which cost R45 000, were damaged on Monday.

“We will be acting decisively against our essential services workers who were on strike,” he warned.

Social Development Department spokesperson Ncumisa Fandesi called on the children to remain calm while the matter was being investigated.

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