Such centres have poorly qualified staff, warns Child Department
The Ministry of Social Affairs is working on a new law to streamline the work of nursery schools, and all children play centres and institutions. A senior official on Thursday said some centres, though licensed to look after or just entertain children, advertise other activities they are not permitted to carry out.
Moza Salem Al Shoomi, Director of Child Department, Ministry of Social Affairs, told Khaleej Times that such childcare centres conduct these activities without the approval from the ministry. “Such unmonitored illegal practices pose a real risk to parents and children alike, because these centres are not prepared for the same and do not meet the set conditions.”
Some of these centres, she warned, have recruited poorly qualified staff, with some of them even having sexual assault cases registered against them in their home countries. “There should an extensive report on the social and psychological background of each and every worker employed (in such centres).”
Al Shoomi said several childcare centres are unlicensed by the ministry. “To make things easier, the ministry entered into an agreement with the National Media Council to alert all such centres, and develop parents’ awareness.
“Other than people’s complaints, our inspectors have issued warning letters to 11 childcare centres, and two home-based nurseries have been referred to the law enforcement bodies for legal action.”
As a first step to plug the gap, the ministry has decided to ban all advertisements by unlicensed childcare activities. “Unlicensed centres cannot promote their activities while other centres permitted to practice specific programmes are strictly banned from promoting any unlicensed activity.”
Al Shoomi said fines ranging from Dh10,000 to Dh50,000 will be slapped on violators. “The hefty financial penalty, to be put in force by June this year after final approval from the Cabinet, is applicable to all nursery schools, play centres, and any institutions running activities related to children.
“The move follows many complaints and alerts about unlicensed childcare centres, particularly home-based, which offer services, as well as education and training courses, to children below and above the legal age.”
While childcare advertisements have helped the spread of such improper nurseries, the ministry is coordinating with all the economic departments concerned to control and catch errant centres. “Most of these centres are not prepared to receive children, and fail to observe the set rules of cleanliness, and physical and sexual assaults.”
Al Shoomi added that childcare needs proper, healthy environment, apart from qualified staff, and official agreements, including good conduct certificates. “Such unlicensed nurseries, which are only established for making quick profits, receive children below and above the age.
“The ministry is mainly interested in protecting children and providing them with the right services,” she concluded.