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As families across Qatar gear up for the beginning of the school term next week, the state of Doha’s nurseries remains in limbo.

New government regulations requiring nurseries to operate only on the ground floor are expected to take effect today (Aug. 30). Most nurseries in Qatar operate in villas, sometimes using all three storeys.

This memo was sent from the Ministry of Social Affairs to all nurseries in June:

“Upper floors in nurseries are to be converted for administration purposes only, within three months from June 1st, 2012. In the event that the requirements are not met as announced, the necessary legal measures will be taken with regard to the non-compliant nurseries.”

The regulations have already prompted some nurseries to close. Others have reduced class sizes while carrying out expensive building work, leading them to increase fees to make up for the additional cost.

Parents have been telling Doha News that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a nursery place for their children, and others say that the increased fees are putting a huge strain on family finances.

Some parents are only just being told what their child’s nursery intends to do about the new rules, and some are still waiting to be told, even though nursery terms officially begin next week.

Others have been told by nurseries that they believe the law will be changed, or that they will somehow be “exempt.”

The new rules were originally discussed in February, but no strict deadline was enforced. However, a month after the tragic fire at Villagio that killed 19 people – including 13 children at daycare facility Gympanzee – the government announced it was drafting another new law to tighten regulations.

This is what some parents, when questioned on the Doha Mums forum, have told us:

  • “As far as I am aware, my daughter’s nursery will still be operating over two floors but moving the younger children downstairs”, says G. “There have been no parent updates over the summer about how many classes will now be downstairs or if they have installed any external staircases or increased fees, I guess we will find out when we go back.”
  • “I spoke to my kids’ nursery about this this morning” says E. “At the moment they’re planning on continuing to operate on two floors – they’ve recently been inspected by everyone and think they’re going to be allowed to continue but apparently the message from the Ministry changes on a daily basis.”
  • “Two of my kids are at a nursery where, to my knowledge, they have done nothing to meet the guidelines”, says P. “I repeatedly asked over the summer what measures they were taking to meet the new law and was reassured that ‘everything was fine’ – yet no progress has been made on moving all classes downstairs. To be honest, their attitude was appalling – which made me wonder if the owner has a ‘special relationship’ with someone important, which is why no-one seemed to care.”
  • “My son’s nursery closed its doors just before the holidays rather than squeeze all the children onto the ground floor”, says T. “Since then I have visited 8 different nurseries and phoned more….only two believed that the ministry would enforce the new regulations, or they suggested that they would somehow be exempt because their sponsor was high up in government. In desperation I spoke to someone at social affairs who told me in no uncertain terms that all nurseries would be required to operate on ground floor only, regardless of extra fire escapes upstairs.”
  • “I am so upset and livid!” says S. “I have just read an email from my son’s nursery sent at 12:55 this afternoon saying that my son no longer has a place to start there on Sunday. Talk about leaving me in the lurch! I am starting a new job next week. What am I supposed to do now? How can they have left it this late to tell me? They said it is due to them not being able to use the first floor classrooms following the government guidelines in may! Well we are now at the end of August! What do I do now?”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Social Affairs has confirmed that it will be inspecting nurseries for compliance to the new rules next week. But any clarification of the policy must come from Civil Defense.

Are you the parent of a child enrolled in nursery in Qatar? Have you been kept up to date about changes, and are you happy with your nursery’s approach to the new regulations? 

Credit: Photo by Pengrin

Qatar’s Ministry of Social Affairs has imposed new rules on the country’s 105 nurseries, requiring, among other things, the businesses to have closed-circuit cameras, a full-time nurse, a children’s library and a social worker for kids with learning disorders.

There are no details on how these new standards will be enforced, or what grace period nurseries will have to make changes, but what is certain is that the majority of Qatar’s babysitting facilities have a lot of work ahead of them.

The Peninsula reports:

(Nejat Al Abdullah, Director of Social Protection Department at the ministry), said nurseries must teach good behaviour to children and teach them Arabic and English languages as well, aside from focusing on inculcating in them religious and social values.

“A nursery should be able to spot talent in a child so that it could be developed for social good,” she said.

(Al Abdullah) urged both Qatari and expatriate parents not to entrust their children with maids while they are out for work and said they must send them to nurseries for safety, security and education.

As a parent, the new rules definitely appeal to me, but seem pretty lofty given the quality of the nurseries here. 

Thoughts?