The future of a number of established nurseries in Qatar appears uncertain as authorities consider introducing a rule banning them from operating out of buildings that are more than 10 years old.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA), which is in charge of governing all nurseries in Qatar, confirmed to Doha News that a “draft decision” on the matter is currently being studied.
If the rule does come into force, an official at the ministry’s family development department said that “nurseries would be given lead time to sort out their issues.”
It is not clear what has prompted this latest proposal by the ministry, or what the timelines would be if it does come into effect.
If implemented, a number of owners and managers of established childcare establishments told Doha News that they may be forced to close their doors for good.
One owner and manager of a well-known British curriculum nursery in Doha said that the costs involved in relocating to another building, if required, and ensuring it met the authorities’ stringent safety requirements would be prohibitive.
“It would, quite frankly, be the end of my nursery. I have spent in excess of QR800,000 converting the villa into a nursery as per all the Ministry and Civil Defense requirements.
There is absolutely no way to recoup that kind of money if we move from the current villa, which I am going into my ninth year of occupation in. It would be financially impossible to start again,” she said.
This latest proposal follows a string of new regulations introduced by MOLSA in recent years governing nurseries, following the long-awaited new nursery law (No. 1 of 2014) that was enacted in January last year.
Brought in to tighten regulations on nurseries following the Villaggio Mall fire in 2012, the law introduced a raft of measures including strict licensing rules for owners and managers.
That included the requirement for all nurseries to have a nutritionist, a nurse and a visiting doctor.
Meanwhile, during routine inspections by MOLSA officials last summer, some nurseries were told that children are no longer allowed to eat their lunch or snacks in their classroom, and that a dedicated lunch room should be built.
Other recent requests by the ministry include asking nurseries to install CCTV on their premises.
Amid the changes, MOLSA also told nurseries ahead of the new academic year in September 2014 that managers were not to increase fees to offset their costs.
At the time, a Ministry representative told Doha News that nurseries needed a “real and convincing reason” for raising tuition, such as an expensive curriculum. The cost of hiring a doctor or nutritionist would not being accepted as a reason, she added.
Nevertheless, some daycare managers said they planned to continue to increase tuition in a bid to cover the increasing overheads incurred by the new ministry rules.
The owner of another popular and established group of nurseries in Doha said that she would also be forced to shut one of her premises if the new rule governing the age of the premises were to come into effect.
“I would have to close. Finding another, suitable new location really is impossible,” she said.
However, she added that she supported the ministry’s focus on ensuring nursery buildings were safe and would be in favor of additional Civil Defense checks on premises, if necessary.
But she added that in some cases, older premises were more robustly constructed than newer buildings, with thicker walls and higher ceilings:
“One of our buildings is 15 years old, but it has just had new electrics installed, which have been signed off by Civil Defense. As long as the older buildings are properly looked after, it doesn’t mean they can’t meet safety standards,” she added.
Meanwhile, MOLSA appears to be relaxing a provision of the Nursery Law that prevented children older than four years from attending day care – at least some cases.
While ministry representatives had previously been strictly enforcing the rule, there have been a number of reported cases in which parents are being granted extensions for at least a term after the child’s fourth birthday.
One nursery manager told Doha News that two children had recently been granted an extension by the ministry until the end of the summer term, after their parents submitted in Arabic a letter formally asking for permission.
The manager said: “The parents were delighted. I was surprised at the decision, which I received in an email from the ministry, but also pleased. It’s good news.”
So what gives with the seemingly arbitrary 10 year rule on buildings? While I am all for increased safety for children (who here wouldn’t be?), without any given rationale (why is transparency such a difficult concept in this region?), this sounds like a useless move that will only force nurseries to incur additional expenses for relatively little if any benefit. Are they saying that the facilities built ten years ago are not up to proper code or standard? If so, then they should be coming down hard on their own authorities that oversee such construction or grant permits. I feel for the folks that have run and invested so much in these nursery schools so far…pretty soon, there will be no places left for people to enroll their kids. THEN listen to the sucking sounds as everyone leaves Qatar for greener pastures.
10 is such a nice round number Susan.
The question I would ask is that if any building is unsafe for kids, doesn’t that make it unsafe for anyone?
Someone in power has a load of overpriced new builds for sale/ rent and they are not being picked up, thats probably why.
From one mindless extreme to the other. It doesn’t matter how old the building is provided it meets the physical requirements for hygiene, security, and fire security. and that the nursery is actually run in accordance with their requirements – i.e. no padlocked fire doors or storing flammable goods in escape routes, maintaining fire alarms etc etc etc. For goodness sake Qatar hire an expert safety consultant and get some logic into your thinking.
Villaggio was less than 10 years old when disaster struck…
If the point is to give people the impression that someone in power actually cares about the welfare of children in nurseries, here’s an idea – prosecute and punish the people who were found guilty of the Villagio deaths.
Anything short of that is pathetic and tinkering around the edges.
Errr…I’m sure you’re aware that they have been tried and found guilty and it’s now on appeal.
Err… I’m sure that you are aware that two of those on appeal still represent Qatar as its Ambassador and wife to the EU and choose not to attend their own appeal hearings simply delaying the outcome.
Until an appeal is successful those convicted remain guilty of negligent manslaughter and blatantly disregarding the laws of Qatar consequently killing 13 children and 6 adults.
However it’s beyond me how with those credentials you still qualify to represent your country overseas. I guess being seen to uphold your own country’s law is not important internationally to the Qatari government.
It does make you wonder though if any of the new rules above will be enforced with any substance.
Not sure how your response relates to my comment. And you have also leapt to the conclusion, through the use of “your government”, that I’m Qatari.
Michael stated that those responsible for Villaggio should be prosecuted and punished – so far there has been no punishment or accountability. I was unclear from your initial response if you were aware of that hence my reply.
However I’m not sure where my response mentions you being Qatari or uses “your Goverment” ?
In your 3rd paragraph you mentioned “your country” (not government, my mistake) and I I thought that the pronoun “your” was referring to me. However in re reading I see that I misread it…..apologies.
I was taking issue with Michael over the facts of his statement. They have been prosecuted and the punishment surely can’t come before the appeal is finalised. The issue of whether this process has been speedy enough is another matter entirely and I wasn’t commenting on that.
It also occurred to me that you are probably Martin Weekes. Not for the first time may I say that my thoughts are with you, Jane and the rest of your family.
How to you get a job at one of these places? The continual nonesense in regulations is beyond belief. If I didn’t know better I would suspect they have meetings while high on LSD.
I’m starting to lose faith on the system here.
i agree with you.
Or they use a magic 8 ball to make decisions to save time 😉
New building doesn’t mean better quality.
I live in an old building and its quality is much better than most new buildings.
Just apply a set of safety requirements and proper licenses.
my god! seriously, ten and 15 year old buildings are way safer and better built than any new building in qatar. in london buildings that are 200 years old are safer and better built than any of our lovely 5 star hotel buildings….
some of these decisions make me really sad
knee jerk reactions are the norm. this policy really hasn’t been thought out
In other News, more Qatar Logic:
‘Qatar authorities consider banning Red cars’. A spokesman said: ‘6% of all cars in Qatar are Red. Therefore the roads will be 6% safer.’
‘We All See You’ campaign to be extended to ‘We All Smell You.’ Authorities claim that litter-droppers exude the smell of guilt and shame, which can be detected from a distance of 10km.
More news later.
This has got to be one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. How does that law translate into safety? The law should outline the safety requirements (if they have actually thought it out in detail beyond building age) that way older villas have the chance to renovate to include these requirements.
This law will cause a lot of nurseries to shut down and others to be forced to increase their fees.
And why on earth does each nursery need a nutritionist?! The ministry can either give each nursery a list of acceptable and non acceptable food (although this should be common sense for proper nursery management) or require them to take a short standard nursery nutrition course run by a nutritionist that outlines food hygiene, food choices and etc. They can then conduct food inspections if they dont trust them.
I have never heard of schools or nurseries that have doctors as well, just a school nurse and that seems to do just fine.
Im all for child safety but this is overkill. A child is more likely to get injured in a car then the nursery.
Instead of having to enact this law regarding newer buildings to be converted into nurseries, MOLSA should have a law that all future nurseries should be built as nurseries, no residential villa should be converted into a nursery any more. If anyone wishes to open up a nursery the building should be structured to comply with appropriate standards and safety measures. Just like no residential building can be converted to a school or hospital, similarly no residential building should be made into a nursery.
Why limit yourself to 10 year old nurseries?
if you accept that buildings over a certain age are sub standard and unsafe you should shut all public buildings of that age be it malls, government buildings and towers.
If not at least enforce international standards of fire safety and evacuation management with annual building warrants of fitness.
If owners then choose not to comply simply close their building until they do.