As Qatar moves closer to adopting a new law governing nurseries here, managers of these businesses have told Doha News that they are still waiting to hear what changes are expected of them.
The new law, which was passed by the Cabinet last week and now awaits Emiri approval, has been in the works for years, but its passage has picked up speed following the death of 19 people in a children’s daycare in a fire at Villaggio mall last May.
Weeks after that tragedy, a series of new regulations were imposed on nurseries and kindergartens in Qatar, including a decree from the former Ministry of Social Affairs that all nurseries should operate only on the ground floor.
The rule was introduced quickly and prompted some short-notice closures and allegations of overcrowding in some nurseries, which found themselves short of space.
Details of the new nursery legislation have so far been sparse, with many nurseries confirming that they have heard nothing about it from the newly formed Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, which regulates Qatar’s nurseries.
“We never really seem to get any information (about changes),” Maeve Galvin, manager of Apple Tree nurseries, told us. “Often, we don’t get anything in writing from the Ministry. I do think what they’re doing is good – it’s not the changes they’re making that are the problem, it’s the lack of communication. If we know in advance, we can make plans. Hopefully, this time we will get better information.”
Official information about the contents of the new law has been limited. So far, changes that have been announced include:
- A faster licensing process, that is expected to be more transparent;
- 15 new conditions for employing staff, which have yet to be disclosed; and
- A new provision that allows the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs to cancel a permit or close a nursery down for up to three months if rules are being broken.
The ministry declined to provide more details when we contacted them this morning.
However, the manager of one popular nursery, who asked to remain anonymous, explained some of the changes that the ministry discussed with her.
“I have been told that we will need to employ a Qatari manager, with a minimum salary of QR20,000 a month. That’s too much for us, and we have never had a Qatari national apply for a position at our nursery, so it will be very difficult to recruit one.”
The manager also said that she believed nurseries would be required to introduce an Arabic language/Quran component, would not be able to hire male staff and would not be allowed to accept children over the age of four years old.
“This means that children who turn four while they are at nursery may need to leave on their birthdays,” the manager said. “This will make it very difficult for working parents, who will find it very hard to find a school, as pre-school places are in short supply.”
Until more clarifications are known, nursery managers said their updates will continue to come from the press.
“We haven’t had any visits, or any formal notification of any kind,” Rana Nasir, owner and managing director of Treehouse Nursery, told Doha News. “We heard it on the news too.”
Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the new law was drafted before the Villaggio fire.