Nurseries and parents struggling to accommodate a newly-enforced age limit on children attending daycare in Qatar have been handed a lifeline by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MOSA).
Speaking to Doha News, a ministry official said that it is now allowing many children to remain in nursery until the end of the academic year.
Though temporary extensions are being granted to nurseries and parents now, the age limit would be strictly enforced starting the next academic year in September, the official added.
Currently, nurseries are being asked to disclose how many of their children are due to turn four before the end of the year, and based on this information, an extension is likely to be granted, the official explained.
Several nurseries have confirmed to Doha News that exceptions have been granted, not only to individual parents, but also to nursery managers seeking to retain the four-year-olds currently on their books.
Age limit enforcement
Although the rule has technically been applicable for at least two years, nursery managers told Doha News that MOSA officials have been stepping up enforcement over the past few months.
This has led to some children being told to leave their nurseries on their fourth birthdays, leaving many with no option but to stay at home for the rest of the year, as places in kindergartens and schools in Doha are in short supply.
This week, several nurseries have told Doha News that exceptions are being granted. British nursery Busy Bees received a phone call from the ministry at the end of last week telling them that all of their children aged four years old, or soon to turn four, could remain “until the end of the summer.”
“But from September onward, we categorically cannot have any child over 4 years old,” manager Nadene Shameem said. “We were told to update our prospectus and to inform our current parents of the new change of rule being enforced. We also have to supply the ministry with a current list of children who are four, and who are turning four.”
Meanwhile, British nursery Apple Tree confirmed that it was granted a similar extension before Christmas:
“It is good that they are addressing the immediate problem, and children who might have had to stay at home for some of this year have somewhere to go” manager Maeve Galvin said.
“And it also gives parents warning that for the next year, they may only have a few months of nursery before they need to find a kindergarten or a school. “
Some nurseries, however, have expressed concern because they feel the extension was not granted in a formal enough way.
A group of concerned parents with children attending Creative Child nursery, for example, received extensions from the ministry in December.
But according to manager Fabiola Barrios, requests from the parents for written confirmation from the ministry have been turned down, with an assurance that the verbal authorization they’d received from the ministry was enough:
“The parents just want to make absolutely sure that their children will be ok staying in nursery, but they have been told they will not receive written proof of this. All communication has been verbal.”
Another nursery manager who spoke to Doha News on the condition of anonymity said that her nursery was still waiting to hear whether it would be granted an extension for their soon-to-be four year olds, whose names were submitted to the MOSA at its recent request.
Has your child been affected? Thoughts?