Relax ... ' Big Mother' is watching at schools
Doting parents no longer have to fear for their kids' safety - tech-savvy nursery schools are giving them unfettered access to classrooms and playgrounds via webcams. A number of nursery schools, mainly in Johannesburg and Pretoria, have installed surveillance cameras, some of which cost up to R100000, which allow parents to view their kids remotely by logging into CCTV systems from tablets, smartphones or laptops.story_article_left1Parents are able to keep track of their children's every move by accessing live footage.Most of the schools have made the move to give parents peace of mind about the safety of their children.Incidents of alleged abuse by teachers at crèches have put many parents on their guard about the safety of their little ones.Nursery schools came under scrutiny last year with two high-profile cases of alleged abuse, both captured on camera. In one case, a nine-month-old was beaten by a teacher at a Krugersdorp preschool and in another video, a toddler at a Rosettenville crèche was tied up and gagged in a bathroom, allegedly by the owner, so that she could watch television.Little Creations, a nursery school in the upmarket Johannesburg suburb of Bryanston, installed the monitoring system to "not only give parents peace of mind but to ensure an open policy"."Due to the nature of children playing together and working in groups, it is not possible to give parents access to only their child," said Susan Phelps, school manager."Many parents make use of this system and find it reassuring."She said there were no privacy issues with the system, because parents enrolling their children and teachers joining the staff were told about it from the start.Opti-Baby & Kids - a company which runs nursery schools in suburbs that include Fourways, Northcliff, Rosebank and Brooklyn - has installed cameras at more than 13 of its schools.full_story_image_hleft1"We first installed our system in 2003. We've since expanded to more schools, all running independent systems," said Jean-Jacques Minnaar, the company's IT manager.Rachel Watson, the group's marketing manager, said teachers were "well aware of the cameras in the schools and they prefer to be internet-monitored. This tool builds trust and also creates peace of mind from our staff and parents."Parents at Opti-Baby have welcomed the chance to be flies on the wall. One mother posted on the school's website, "I am one of the moms who keeps an eye on the camera every now and again throughout the day, and not once can I say that I felt uncomfortable with anything I saw."Another mother posted, "She's only 17 months old. If we get curious and want to see what she's up to, the cameras are always on."Bonita van Oudtshoorn of Kiddie Palace in Randburg said, "I believe it is a great source of comfort for our parents and it shows that the school is above board and has nothing to hide."