Singapore: Religious Teacher Jailed for Ill-Treating Children

Pertapis Children's Home

A religious teacher at Pertapis Children’s Home in Singapore was sentenced last week for ill-treating children under his care. Muhammad Abdul Gani, 27, will now have to serve three weeks in jail for meting out corporal punishment to at least eight children without first initiating a formal inquiry against their problematic behaviour. Gani admitted to only four of the 10 charges that were leveled against him. According to his admission, those four children were aged four to 10 years at the time of their abuse (2012 to 2013) at the home located on Kovan Road.

The home is known to provide accommodation to children belonging to dysfunctional families, who may have been neglected or abused beyond parental supervision or are at risk.

Gani, who is no longer employed at Pertapis, had been hired as an Ustaz at the non-profit organization in September 2012. His offences surfaced after a former employee of Pertapis divulged information about certain colleagues meting out cruel and inappropriate punishments to children. Among the kinds of punishments that Gani meted out to the children was lifting a seven-year-old boy off the floor by grabbing his head because he failed to line up properly in the prayer room. In 2012, he had punished a 10-year-old girl by kicking the chair she was standing on and causing her to fall down for making excessive noise during mealtime.

District judge Christopher Goh said he had failed to be swayed by the aggravating factors brought to the fore by the prosecution. He also said that the prosecution had placed too much emphasis on the fact that the offences were too difficult to detect. However, he did admit that Gani’s actions were a shocking breach of authority and trust, both duties he had taken on as a religious teacher. What made his actions unforgivable was the fact that these helpless children had been sent to Pertapis specifically because they were defenseless and at risk. Explaining that Gani did not intend to display any malice, Goh said a short jail term would suffice.  He still stressed that staff members at such organizations have a difficult time dealing with their responsibilities as a lot of burden is placed on them.

“I do not envy them. Perhaps some of them may be unsuitable for such jobs,” he said.

Goh concluded that the chief interest of such organizations must be the welfare of children, as they are already considered disadvantaged since they hale from dysfunctional backgrounds. When such incidents do occur, he elucidated, the children involved must be brought to task and punished appropriately, but only if they have been proven guilty.

Gani could have been jailed for up to four years and fined as much as $4,000 for each charge.

Photo Credits: Today Online

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