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[OPINION] Who minds the childminders?

Imagine you were unable to do anything for yourself physically. Imagine you had to depend on someone to feed and bathe you. Imagine that someone else was always responsible for your well-being and safety. Imagine that this person had the core responsibility of keeping you alive.

Now imagine that you’re unable to communicate how you feel, and you don’t have the power to speak. Imagine you’re upset or distraught, or in pain and all you can do is cry.

Imagine that the person taking care of you is tired, because they have been taking care of you, day in and day out, and they’ve become frustrated because they can’t figure out what’s wrong with you.

Now imagine they’ve lost their patience because you have been crying, so they take their hand and cover your mouth so you’ll stop. But you’re unable to help yourself, so you struggle to breathe. And they want you to stop crying, so they keep their hand there. But you need them to take their hand away because you can’t breathe.

And you trust them, but they’re stronger than you.

How would that make you feel? Helpless?

Now imagine what a child goes through when their caregiver loses their patience.

On Tuesday, Eyewitness News revealed that a 68-year-old caretaker was charged with child abuse after video footage emerged appearing to show her abusing an eight-month-old boy.

In the video, the elderly woman can be seen placing her hand on the baby’s face while he battles to breathe.

The woman can also be heard instructing another child to hit the baby boy before shaking him to stop him from crying.

The story has made me sick to my stomach. So much so that I can’t bring myself to even watch the video.

I have a six-month-old baby girl who is looked after every day by a nanny. I worry about her all the time, yet I have no choice but to have someone take of her while I am at work.

I pay the nanny a salary to take care of my child, to feed and bathe her, to make sure she’s fed and in a safe environment.

All I could think about after reading that story was, what if she doesn’t?

What if she becomes frustrated and is tired one day? What if she takes her hand and covers my daughter’s mouth so she will stop crying, and my little girl can’t breathe?

What if she keeps her hand there for a moment too long and my child stops breathing? My helpless, defenceless baby.

On Wednesday, the State withdrew all charges against the woman in the video, citing a lack of evidence.

Police say they first need to obtain a statement from the child's mother, who has apparently fled to Zimbabwe, before new charges can be reinstated.

Meanwhile, Gauteng police have now closed the daycare centre in Diepsloot and are investigating whether it has a license to operate.

They've told Eyewitness News the footage is also being scrutinised.

I only hope this kind of story serves as a wake-up call to parents that they can’t trust just anyone with their children.

But I also hope it serves as a lesson to childminders about their behaviour and reminds them that they’re responsible for a life.

Tamsin Wort is a member of the Eyewitness News online team in Johannesburg. Follow her on Twitter @TamsinShawn.

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