When one of her teachers at the preschool she runs was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB), she thought parents would flare up at her.
Instead, Ms Ruth Kuasaw support from parents during the crisis.
Yesterday, 80 children enrolled at the Little Greenhouse preschool at Bukit Batok were screened for TB after the teacher was diagnosed with the airborne disease.
TB is caused by the bacteria mycobacterium tuberculosis, which mostly affects the lungs.
Symptoms include coughing that lasts for at least three weeks, fever and loss of weight and appetite.
Ms Kua, deputy chief operating officer of Global Eduhub which manages Little Greenhouse, told The New Paper she will discuss with the management whether to end the teacher’s two-year contract early.
Ms Kua, who is in charge of the Bukit Batok branch of the preschool, said that after the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed the case of TB, the school fumigated the premises and arranged for cleaners to sanitise toys, furniture and other surfaces over the weekend.
Parents were kept in the loop with an electronic circular detailing what happened, and the steps taken by the school.
On Tuesday, the staff members followed up with calls to each parent to inform them of the TB screening for all 104 children attending the preschool.
The first group of 80 was screened on Aug 24. The remaining 24 children will be screened Aug 26. The teachers will also be tested.
Ms Kua made sure rows of chairs were lined up outside the preschool for concerned parents who may want to be present during the screening. But most were unoccupied.
“Not many parents turned up. They just left (the screening process) to us, and trusted us to update them,” she said.
WORRIED ABOUT PARENTS’ REACTIONS
She added that while some children cried after their injections, most were placated with a sticker or a hug – a reward for being brave.
Ms Kua’s decision to be open about the tuberculosis incident was tinged with worries that parents would get angry. She said: “I would say that as a mother myself, I put myself in parents’ shoes at all times…
“If the parents were to shout at us, it’s okay.
“Let’s explain to them, let’s get this clear and get conversations going…
“I’m ready to face all these things at all times with our parents.”
PARENTS TAKE IT IN THEIR STRIDE
To her relief, parents have been understanding so far. IT projects manager Nishant Kumar Singh, 32, said he was keeping his fingers crossed about his daughter’s test results.
He told TNP: “Definitely, we were very worried after hearing about the news. Our child is just two, and the immunity for a two-year-old is really very weak.
“But it’s an unfortunate incident that no one can control… If the teacher is not aware of (her condition), we shouldn’t blame anyone. We have to be supportive.”
Another parent, Ms Connie Ng, 32, said she appreciated the daily updates from the preschool.
Still, Ms Kua acknowledged that Little Greenhouse’s reputation may take a hit.
“To be very frank… it does not reflect very well (on the preschool). But what’s more important is the process of how we handle and manage the situation, work very closely with MOH and follow closely what needs to be done,” she said.
An MOH spokesman said that as those with active TB disease rapidly become non-infectious once treatment starts, the preschool is not required to close down.
TEACHER MAY LOSE JOB
Ms Ruth Kua, who runs Little Greenhouse at Bukit Batok, is thinking of ending the contract of the teacher who contracted tuberculosis (TB).
The teacher, who is a Chinese national, had shown no symptoms before calling in sick last Thursday.
The teacher, who has been with the school since June last year, was given two weeks’ medical leave after getting the diagnosis on Friday.
Infectious diseases specialist Leong Hoe Nam told TNP that the leave is long enough for her to be non-infectious if she takes her antibiotics regularly.
It will take six months of antibiotics to completely eradicate the bacteria.
Ms Kua told TNP that she was thinking of ending the teacher’s two-year contract early.
The deputy chief operating officer of Global EduHub, which manages Little Greenhouse, said: “Some may think it’s not a very nice thing to do to nice staff, but no choice, (I have) to protect our children’s safety.”
“She’s a very good teacher loved by many parents… But to be frank, even if she finished her antibiotics, many parents will still be scared. There’s no guarantee that she won’t get a relapse.”
Dr Leong disagreed with the need to terminate the teacher.
Pointing out that there is a one in five chance of anyone contracting TB, he said: “You shouldn’t fire someone because of TB because it’s discriminatory, and because TB is easily treatable. One shouldn’t be penalised for that.”
A version of this article first appeared in The New Paper.
(Photo: The Straits Times)