WATCH | 'Now we know why': parents of kids who cry before daycare and have suspicious marks

Tears of remorse, and an overwhelming sense that their many questions will remain unanswered. That's how the parents of toddlers at a crèche in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg, described the way they felt on Friday.

For these parents, whose children who were allegedly slapped by their caretaker and other workers at the crèche, the damage has been done.

"How long has this been going on? My heart is in pieces," a woman, whose name has been witheld to protect her children, told our sister publication TimesLIVE on Friday. "You hear about these things on the news and people talk about these things, but you never think it could happen to your own children."

The mother-of-two said her daughters attended the daycare - one, now five, since she was three months old. 

Her second daughter, who is just over a year old, was seemingly assaulted in one of the videos shared online.

"No child deserves this. We don't even hit our children at home. Who gives someone else the right to hit our children?"

The family paid just over R1,200 monthly to the crèche after receiving a discount for the two children, she said.

The daycare's owner and two employees were detained for questioning on Thursday. Col Lungelo Dlamini confirmed that they were released soon after.

Dlamini said a hard drive had been seized to help the investigation.

On Friday morning, the gate at the creche lay broken in the driveway.

A neighbour told TimesLIVE it was "ripped from its railing" on Thursday evening.

"I just saw a bakkie pulling the gate from the railing. It was dark so I couldn't see the number plate, but you could hear the little stones from the gravel hitting against the garage doors and windows. It must have been a very powerful bakkie to pull that gate over," said the man, who asked not to be named.

A second mother said that her one-year-old son joined the crèche in May last year after she had searched for the "perfect school for her baby boy".

"Every parent just wants the best for their child and I felt that we made the right choice when we chose Myne Maatjies because I knew a lot of parents whose children were also there," she said.

The woman said her child would often cry when they dropped him in the mornings, but things got better after a while.

A few months later her child returned from daycare with marks on his face, but they decided not to question these, thinking "he is a boy and that's how boys are".

After it happened more frequently, her husband went to the school to find out what was happening.

A pedestrian walks past Myne Maatjies daycare in Randfontein on Friday morning.
A pedestrian walks past Myne Maatjies daycare in Randfontein on Friday morning.
Image: Alon Skuy

The owner told the family there was a child at the school who was bullying their boy.

"The owner spoke to us nicely and we decided that we did not want to disrupt his life, so we left him there. She assured us that everything was under control."

But, she said, her son would often return hungry and thirsty from daycare even though she had packed more than enough for him to drink and snack on.

It got worse when their child cried for hours after being fetched from school. 

She said she had sent the owner pictures of his behaviour. 

"He was just not the same boy anymore, but the owner told me it's just a phase, I shouldn't worry.

"I told his father that something was not right. It was so bad that I started reading books to try to figure out what the problem was.

"My child lost his joy for life. He didn't want to eat or sleep and also didn't sleep properly and cried a lot. He started hitting us, and now we understand why, because the minds of children record everything."

The boy was removed from the school a few months ago and has since been looked after by his grandmother.

"I am sad, angry and scared. My trust in people will never be the same when it comes to my children."

The father of a girl who is just over a year old said she had come home with marks on her body before, but he thought it was just from the rough and tumble with her friends. The girl has been at the crèche about seven months.

"When you drop your child in the morning and she starts crying, it's not a nice thing but you think she is just being naughty. But now you can see the real problem," he said.