The reputation of pre-school education has been dealt another blow after a central China kindergarten was issued a notice of closure after pupils were reportedly forced to kneel during meal times.
Pictures of pupils at Xiaolongren Kindergarten in Zhengzhou City, capital of Henan Province, kneeling on a cement floor that widely shared across the Internet, stoked accusations of child abuse.
The local education authority confirmed on Sunday that the kindergarten had been closed, and that Li, the principal, will issue an apology to parents.
The pupils will be assigned places at other kindergartens.
Li told Xinhua that he suspected the pictures were orchestrated and then purposely circulated by a former employee "out of spite".
"I think that [the former teacher] told the pupils to kneel before taking the photos," he said. The online community hit back at his response, saying the principal was shirking responsibility and his statement was "childish".
The former employee, who uploaded the photos, shot back at the principal's comments and said the images were not taken out of "revenge" as "other reasons" had informed her decision to leave her job. Speaking to the local "Henan Business Daily", she said the pictures were taken on different days, proof that kneeling was common practice.
Pre-schools have been battled with scandals in recent years, as a number of kindergartens across several provinces last year were allegedly dosing toddlers with medicine to boost attendance.