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That Time My Child Went Missing & What I Learned From It

Ok, the title was a bit dramatic, but I got your attention didn’t I?

Yesterday something awful happened & the more I thought about it, the angrier I got and the more hysterical I got about what could have happened.

For two hours yesterday, my child was unaccounted for by her school!

To say I’m furious is the understatement of the century. I’m all ready for the meeting with the principal this afternoon where my husband is going to have to physically gag & restrain me.

 

I’d love to name and shame the school, but I’m smarter than that. I will never disclose where my kids go to school online. You can ask me, but I won’t tell you. As a side note, I’m busy writing a post about how parents need to be more cautious online, this is based purely on search terms used to find my blog. It will shock your flipping socks off. But I digress.

So what happened?

The school sent out their weekly newsletter last week, in it, they informed us that due to exam timetables all extra murals would stop on Friday, 9th June. Cool. Noted and advised to the transport company we use for our girls.

What they neglected to inform us was that choir finished last week Monday, 30th May. Now Ava finishes school at 1pm. The school security procedure is that she is then moved, by her teacher to the holding class where she remains until choir starts at 2pm and she is then collected, by the transport company at 3pm directly from choir.

What actually happened….

Was that she was not taken to holding class, she was left to meander around the school, along with another SEVEN year old, until choir was supposed to start at 2pm. When they went to the hall and discovered there was no choir, these two little SEVEN year olds then went and waited for their lifts at the gate to the FLIPPING CAR PARK! For an hour!

She’s seven.

Let me repeat that, she’s SEVEN years old! She should not be left to her own devices, she should not be left unsupervised and she should certainly NOT be left hanging about a gate at the car park on her own, even if it’s a secure school parking lot. 

The worst part, or maybe the saving grace.

Is that I didn’t know about any of this until her school driver informed us at 3pm that he couldn’t find Ava and upon enquiringy at the school, was informed that there was no choir.

Cue the panic!

Thankfully he found her and brought her home safely but the more I thought about it, the angrier I got.

We live in a country where child trafficking, child abduction, child rape and child murder are on a sickening increase. We are extremely cautious with our children, we don’t even like to take them to shopping malls. And yet, because of one stupid error by the school and not following the procedure of holding class that they specified, this could have ended in absolute tragedy.

I am BEYOND furious.

We have an appointment with the school principal today. It’s just as well I requested we wait a full 24 hours before having the meeting because should it have happened yesterday, I may have been arrested for assault. I am THAT angry. Even just typing this message, I can feel the anger boiling up inside me again, the desire to use a string of expletives is so strong right now, but I won’t because my mom reads my blog and she doesn’t like the f-bomb! Waaah!

We spent the whole of yesterday agonising over this.

I was so angry I cried. My stomach ate itself from the anxiety of thinking about all the other possible scenarios that could have played out. And I kept thinking about the parents of all the children that have gone missing and been founded murdered, raped and mutilated over the past 6 months. I was near insanity last night thinking about the what if’s, can you imagine what these parents have been through?

But I did learn something in the process…..

Ava is an emotionally intuitive and smart child and I over estimated her ability to cope in a situation like this. The long and the short of it is, when our kids are little, no matter how smart they are, we do need to teach them what to do in these situations. Ava was very tearful last night, mostly, I think she was feeding off of y  stress and anxiety and she kept asking if I was angry with her, which I’m not. I’m so angry with the school, I could hurt someone, but I’m not angry with her.

After lots of reassurance, here’s what we’ve drummed into her:

  • Our telephone numbers, which thankfully she did already know but just reminding her to ask a teacher, any teacher, to phone one of us.
  • If she doesn’t know where she’s supposed to be and there is no teacher around, go to the school office and ask the receptionist to phone her mom or dad.
  • Showing her that my telephone number actually appears on all her school and clothing labels, anything that I’ve labelled with those cute pre-printed labels, also contains my telephone number, so if she’s panicked and she can’t remember my number, she can find it on her school bag or even on her shoe label.

Also….

We are busy investigating our options for GPS locating kids watches. I’ve asked online if any parents use them and so many do. They’re great for pinpointing location and for sending and receiving voice messages or even calling us. I don’t want a fancy one with apps, simply one where I can see her GPS co-ordinates and phone her or she can phone me from the watch. So if you have used one of these watches, please leave a comment telling me about it.

Some of you have mentioned that some schools have banned these watches, well, Ava’s school can KISS MY *SS! They’ve proven they can’t be trusted with her safety. This incident has broken my trust in their safety and security measures and she WILL wear a GPS watch if it makes me feel better.  The END!

Have you experienced something similar? What would you advice be? I’d love to hear your story! 

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31 Comments

  • Reply Veronique

    My son (9) has a Tiny Track watch. Nothing fancy but it’s a lifesaver for us when I need to contact him. We had a different one before but the battery was terrible. This one seems to do the job.

    June 7, 2017 at 7:19 am
  • Kelly Jennings
    Reply Kelly Jennings

    Honestly i would have gone in guns blazing. I got this from. Ice tags.

    June 7, 2017 at 7:24 am
  • Glynis Marnitz
    Reply Glynis Marnitz

    A parents worst nightmare. Big hugs to each of you xx

    June 7, 2017 at 7:27 am
  • Shariefa Daliath-Eland
    Reply Shariefa Daliath-Eland

    Where did u get Ur name tags with Ur number too?

    Also does any1 know wat these GPS watches cost

    June 7, 2017 at 7:37 am
  • Eve Mackay
    Reply Eve Mackay

    Wow I would be furious too. So much emotions..too much to handle. I would like to find out more about GPS watches too. They sound like great ideas. And shame on some schools who don’t allow them…it’s a life saving device

    June 7, 2017 at 7:58 am
  • Reply Tania Brewis

    Oh my word!! I can’t even imagine what I’d do if someone like this happened to one of my kids!

    June 7, 2017 at 7:59 am
  • Sade Tamara Lee
    Reply Sade Tamara Lee

    Definitely a parents worst nightmare. So sorry this has happened. Good luck for the meeting today x

    June 7, 2017 at 8:03 am
  • Raylene De Villiers
    Reply Raylene De Villiers

    Horrific. Totally disgusting. I hope you give them hell. We use the eye watch for one of my daughter’s because she has a habit of wandering off. Although it’s a good watch and I have no issue with it the app itself is Chinese which I’d have liked to know before buying it

    June 7, 2017 at 8:11 am
  • Reply Carla VD Westy (@carlieshell)

    Oh wow I am SO glad that she is okay. When I was 8 or 9, I ran away from school. I was at Blairgowrie Primary and there was a half an hour gap between the lower grades ending and the higher grades. So i would wait for my siblings in the playground before my mom would fetch us. In that half an hour, myself and a friend managed to disappear. We had this fairytale plan in our little heads that we would run away see the world. We got as far as Delta Park. Which to be fair isn’t very far but we couldn’t have chosen a more dangerous place. It is a huge area that did not have much security and at that time of day, not a lot of people around. Anyway long story short by some miracle we survived it unscathed. The minute my mom realised we were missing, everyone on the school property stepped in to find us, and once they realised that we were not on the property the police were called and we were eventually found a few hours later in Delta Park. I remember thinking that it was a bad idea to end up alone and vulnerable but by then I was too scared of getting in trouble to turn back or ask someones help. I remember the police finding us and taking us back to school where my mom was almost inconsolable. Only now that I am older and have my own child am I beginning to remember and realise the severity of that day. It was at a time in the early 1990’s where there was a serial rapist/killer on the prowl in Johannesburg. My parents were very traumatized for a very long time. I was scared and sorry and had nightmares for almost a year after that as I was told in no pretty terms exactly what could have happened to us. I was not left unsupervised at all for ages. Still to this day my mom says it was the worst 3 hours of her life.
    I really think those GPS tracking devices are an excellent idea. I will look forward to seeing which one you chose as I must definitely look into it for Harvey.
    Give the school hell.

    June 7, 2017 at 8:13 am
  • Reply tari

    Scary hey!!! I’m glad you little girl was safe. And I do hope to hear more about these GPS locating watches from others.

    June 7, 2017 at 8:14 am
  • Reply paddatjiesema

    I had my scary moment as well. I was in Pretoria for work, but live on the West Rand. Aftercare phones me and tells my they can’t find 8 year old, do I maybe have her. Turns out by that time they’ve already looked for her for an hour before phoning me. She went missing somewhere between waiting class and extra murals. I’m having a panic attack at the office, jump into my car to start the long drive home. And I’m just thinking about someone whose family I follow that’s been missing for 10 years. And of course thinking of all the horrible other things that could’ve happened. The aftercare had the school on lockdown, and all the teachers and aftercare personnel were looking for her. Which meant that they had to leave all the other kids unsupervised. While driving I’m phoning friends to find out if she decided to go with one of them. I didn’t drive too long when they phoned. They were doing a systematic search, and found her (and two kids who she is not even friends with and that are not in aftercare) hiding in the Gr 7 bathrooms. Up to today she still can’t explain why she went with them, and why she didn’t respond to the announcements over the intercom. This was another one of those I want to hug you but also want to kill you myself moments. I’m not blaming the school or aftercare that she is gone, but I do blame them for not phoning me immediately.

    June 7, 2017 at 8:20 am
  • Reply Tracey Oberholzer

    Darling, I’d be beyond frikkin raging too! I’m sure the school will be most apologetic but this is something where there should never be room for error. Keep us updated xx

    June 7, 2017 at 8:25 am
  • Reply Shaveh

    Wow!!! I would have been out of my mind furious for days. Well done for maintaining some sort of cool about it. I can’t wait for the online safety post-I really need good tips on that since I’ve been over cautious in the past and now I think I let it go a little too much. Can’t wait

    June 7, 2017 at 8:31 am
  • Reply catjuggles

    Gosh Sharon I will also be furious! Our school has banned them during exam times (for obvious reasons) but they can hand the in at their teacher in the morning and get them back when they go home

    June 7, 2017 at 8:57 am
  • Samantha
    Reply Samantha 'Cox' Perry

    I’ve just opened it…

    June 7, 2017 at 9:40 am
  • The Blessed Barrenness
    Reply The Blessed Barrenness

    WordPress ran updates. It’s back up now.

    June 7, 2017 at 9:41 am
  • Reply Pippa Tshabalala

    I’ve been looking into those watches as well. Some of them also have an alarm that tells you if it’s being tampered with. If you find a good one let me know! Glad she is ok! <3

    June 7, 2017 at 10:10 am
  • Tracey Chananie
    Reply Tracey Chananie

    The Princess was bought a GPS watch and everything ran smoothly until she had to take it off for Judo and some delightful child thief stole it! As much as they are GPS, we could not pin down the exact address where the watch had been taken as it appears the battery died

    June 7, 2017 at 10:33 am
  • An Ordinary Gal
    Reply An Ordinary Gal

    Been waiting for this post, but trying to calm my racing heart before I start reading. I know my own anxiety levels will be super high as a mom imagining what you were going through!

    June 7, 2017 at 10:43 am
  • Reply An Ordinary Gal

    I had this exact same situation happen a few weeks back with my 8yr old. I cried until I had a headache as I waited for news on if my mom had found her. Eventually she found her, she had gone to ask for a pencil at the tuckshop and started her homework. Smart gal 🙂

    I didn’t realise that we’d never discussed what she’d do if say somebody forgot to pick her up, so I made a point to tell her: Phone numbers are in the front of your homework diary. Go ask the secretary to phone mom or dad.

    My poor child was at school until well after 4…added to not being informed that gymnastics was cancelled, my mom somehow thought she was getting a lift home and didn’t even bother wondering why the child wasn’t home an hour before when she should have been. Needless to say mom is also lucky to still be alive!

    Valuable lesson learnt by us both I guess. Good luck with your meeting. xxxx

    June 7, 2017 at 10:49 am
  • Reply Caroline

    This just makes me crazy also!! We have had car jammers inside our school premises, so stepped up security, but that’s only in the mornings… afternoons the kids could be picked up by anyone!! Mine go to aftercare, so they go in an opposite direction to the exit gates… but hell I am interested in. Those watches now also!! (((Hugs))) hope your meeting has a good outcome!!

    June 7, 2017 at 2:47 pm
  • Kelly McCann Shawyer
    Reply Kelly McCann Shawyer

    Great article Sharon! I can only imagine what you are going through and get all the what’s ifs you are experiencing! Very please I’m not on the other side of that desk tomorrow! Sterkte!

    June 7, 2017 at 3:12 pm
  • Reply Tanya

    Yep, my Autistic 11year old was left at school one afternoon. Bus driver forgot to make sure he got on the bus. 6pm that night and no one could locate him. Was terrifying as the school had closed and he was still sitting outside on the school stairs when we found him 🙁 also made us reevaluate the emergency protocols we had in place. It’s an awful experience

    June 7, 2017 at 3:38 pm
  • Lizanne Fivaz
    Reply Lizanne Fivaz

    I have a 7 year old and this post has raised a lot for me to consider. Thank you for sharing. So glad your little angel is ok

    June 7, 2017 at 10:58 pm
  • Reply Charlotte aka The Stiletto Mum

    Sharon. I feel for you and have been through this not once, but twice. Lorelai is also 7 and in Grade 1 and we have no “holding classes” at our school.

    First thing my girls were told is that under no circumstances are they allowed to wait at the school gate or in the parking lot – its way to easy to grab a child that way.

    Lorelai has to wait at a specific spot where my granddad picks her up every day. this means he has to park and lock his car, walk into the school and go fetch her at that spot.

    Good luck with the principal today.

    June 12, 2017 at 9:50 am
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