Browsing 'nurseries' News

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Wonderlane/Flickr

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With reporting from Heba Fahmy

Several nurseries in Qatar have canceled children’s festive concerts at the last minute this week following a directive from Qatar authorities reminding them not to hold “non-Islamic rituals.”

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA), which licenses and regulates nursery schools in Qatar, sent a circular in Arabic on Tuesday, Dec. 8 to the owners of day care establishments with the title “Celebration of non-Islamic rituals.”

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Damon McDonald

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The two-page memo, which came from the ministry’s Family Development Department, highlighted what authorities said were some of the obligations nurseries have toward their children.

It referenced Article 1 of the Constitution, which defines Qatar as being an Arab state that practices the religion Islam and is primarily governed by Shari’a law.

It also cited Article 22, which according to the legal portal Al Meezan states:

“The State shall provide care for the young and protect them from corruption, exploitation, and the evils of physical, mental and spiritual neglect. The State shall also create circumstances conducive to the development of their abilities in all fields based on a sound education.”

Finally, the memo highlighted Article 2 of the 2014 law regulating the activities of nursery schools, which states that daycares should provide “the appropriate conditions for the development of their skills and talents in various fields using a scientific education system” for their enrolled pre-school children.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Daffodils Nursery/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to that law, one of the responsibilities of nurseries is also to “instill moral and religious values in the minds of children.”

The ministry’s memo concluded:

“Therefore it is prohibited on all nurseries to celebrate with non-Islamic rituals as it violates the constitution of Qatar and violates the rules of the …law no. 1 of the year 2014.”

The memo was sent to daycares to clarify the law, and no nurseries were punished, a MOLSA representative said in a statement to Doha News.

No concerts

In response to the memo, several nurseries in Qatar have taken the precaution of cancelling Christmas-related activities, including children’s concerts that were scheduled to take place this week.

Busy Bees nursery

Busy Bees

Busy Bees nursery

Starfish Lane Kids’ nurseries were due to hold end-of-year concerts yesterday and today, which the children and staff had been preparing to present to parents.

However, after receiving the ministry’s memo, the decision was taken to cancel the concerts, managing partner Kimberley Sheedy told Doha News.

Busy Bees British Nursery has also revised some of its plans for the week in light of the new directive.

Although manager Nadene Shameem said the nursery had not scheduled a concert this year, she still questioned the decision taken by the ministry. In a statement to Doha News, she said:

“It was very disappointing to receive the new ruling from the (ministry) with regards to celebrating ‘non-Islamic rituals.’ As a nursery, it is our responsibility to educate a child in all areas of development and that includes teaching them inclusiveness and diversity, and fostering acceptance and understanding.

But learning about other cultures and their celebrations, a child’s development, knowledge and understanding of the outside world can only expand their minds.”

Fun First nursery in West Bay has also cancelled festive events that were set to take place today.

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Fun First Nursery

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In a statement posted yesterday on its website and Facebook page, the nursery told parents, “we want to inform you that we have to cancel our Christmas/Winter Party that was due to take place this coming Thursday.”

The nursery had reportedly previously planned to host what it billed as a “Christmas party,” which was set to include a visit from Santa Claus and presents for children.

However its celebrations drew the attention of Qatari media commentator Faisal Marzouki, who criticized the event on Twitter.

Posting a notice from the nursery that said parents who did not want their children to take part in the celebrations should keep the children at home on that day, Marzouki tagged MOLSA and asked in Arabic: “What is the opinion of the Ministry of Labor? A kindergarten celebrates bringing Santa to the children, and offering children who do not, not to attend.”

The ministry responded to Marzouki several times on Twitter, saying the situation was being investigated, then that the event had been cancelled, as it was considered to violate the Qatari constitution and the nursery law.

Marzouki’s tweet attracted significant interest, with dozens of people tweeting him their thanks.

Christmas celebrations

Although Qatar is a Muslim country, it is home to hundreds of thousands of Christians, and has a designated religious complex outside central Doha where a number of church buildings are located.

Qatar's Catholic church

Navin Sam / Doha News

Qatar’s Catholic church

Ahead of Christmas, many stores and hotels around the country have been getting into the festive spirit with displays and events. 

However, there has been tension over the public celebration of the holiday in the past.

Tree lighting ceremony at Four Seasons hotel

Baba Tamim

Tree lighting ceremony at Four Seasons hotel

Last year for example, the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) sent a directive to all hotels stating that celebrations should focus on Qatar National Day (Dec. 18), rather than Christmas.

While some establishments did hold festive tree lighting ceremonies in early December last year, the trees were then taken down or covered over until after that holiday.

This year, while many hotels still have trees and other festive decorations prominently displayed in their lobbies, QTA issued a public statement aimed at ensuring National Day is suitably represented:

“As part of celebrations QTA will collaborate with hotels to ensure the spirit of Qatar National Day is shared with the country’s visitors and tourists. Hotel establishments are encouraged to decorate their rooms and reception areas in maroon and white, and to ask their staff to dress in national dress,” the statement said.

Thoughts?

 Photo for illustrative purposes only

Hubert K/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only

Months after Qatar introduced a stricter law governing nurseries, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) has warned daycare managers about fee increases during the coming school year.

The instructions came in a letter sent to all nurseries earlier this month. However, some managers told Doha News that they are going ahead with planned fee increases because they interpreted the letter as a request – and not a directive.

Many managers said they are raising fees because of increased costs due to the Nursery Law No. 1 of 2014, which requires daycares to have a qualified nutritionist, nurse, supervisor and manager on board, among other things.

Any nursery that operates without a valid license can be fined up to QR100,000, and its owner could face a jail term of up to two years.

However, in an email to Doha News, a MOLSA representative said that nurseries needed a “real and convincing reason” for raising tuition, such as an expensive curriculum. The cost of hiring a doctor or nutritionist is not being accepted as a reason, she added.

Age limit

Children over the age of four years old are also now no longer allowed to attend nursery, according to the recent legislation.

This has caused problems for some childcare establishments that have seen their numbers drop since the six-month grace period for enforcing this provision ended just before the summer break.

One manager said:

“I used to have two, full classes of three-year olds. Now I only have one and for the first time, we have introduced a baby room as a way of trying to increase our numbers.”

The older children who previously would attend nursery are now more likely to register with a kindergarten, which is allowed to take children up to five years old, she said.

For illustrative purposes only

Daffodils Nursery/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Fee increases have had a knock-on effect with parents, many of whom cannot afford fees of up to QR3,000 a month demanded by licensed nurseries, and there are reports of a rising number of “underground” childcare establishments being set up.

These are unregulated and the owners take the risk of legal action in order to meet the needs of parents who are priced out of official child care, the Peninsula reports.

MOLSA’s attempt to cap fees on nurseries could be a response to complaints by parents over the rising cost of childcare, and to stop the spread of the illegal establishments.

But nursery managers said the increased financial burden of meeting new requirements gives them no option but to raise their fees, or to introduce administration or registration fees as a means of covering their rising costs.

Lunch rooms

In addition to the new legislation, MOLSA has also recently made several other requests/directives, including outfitting their facilities with CCTV.

During spot-checks over the summer, some nurseries were also 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.

Wendy Copley/Flickr

However, the requirement does not appear to apply to all nurseries, with some managers saying it was only a suggestion.

Speaking to Doha News, the manager of a popular and well-established nursery in Doha said that building a new lunch room would cost her up to QR100,000. She added: “I am lucky in that I have the space for one, but lots of other nurseries don’t.”

The manager said she was surprised after receiving the letter about fee restrictions earlier this month, as she had been given permission by the ministry earlier in the year to double the rates.

She said she decided to increase tuition by 10 percent and plans to keep this raise in place, interpreting the ministry’s letter as a request rather than an order. She added:

“We have so many costs, particularly with the new lunch room. Where is this money coming from if we can’t increase our fees? If they enforce this ruling on the fees, then we might have to close down…

Another nursery owner said that during an inspection earlier this week, her staff were told that the lunch room was a suggestion but was not a necessity.

“We have no room for a lunchroom, so I am not going to build one. We have huge class rooms with lots of space for the children and a beautiful library, which I won’t compromise…

They don’t ask us if our staff are all first-aid trained, which they are, or if we have regular fire drills, which we do. Instead, they want us to have lunch rooms.”

The ministry have previously been a source of ire for many nursery managers, who say they often receive unclear advice or observe inconsistent enforcement of regulations.

Earlier this year for example, all nurseries were informed they were no longer allowed to undertake water play activities.

However, the decision caused confusion among nursery managers over which water activities were permissible and the advice given to individual nurseries by MOLSA inspectors was not uniform.

Thoughts?

Note: This article was edited to correctly reflect nurseries charging fees of up to QR3,000 a month, not per term.

Stuffed animals

Donna Pool/Flickr

With reporting from Riham Sheble

Nurseries across Qatar have recently been told by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) that they are no longer allowed to have any soft toys onsite – including children’s personal belongings that are brought from home.

The decision is the latest in a series of new rules introduced in nurseries as the ministry tightens regulations on the institutions.

New legislation governing childcare establishments in Qatar was introduced at the beginning of this year, and MOLSA officials have been conducting regular spot checks to ensure that nurseries are complying with the law.

At the end of April, MOLSA wrote to all nurseries informing them that they were banned from organizing field trips or arranging “dangerous” activities such as swimming – a decision which caused confusion among nursery managers over which water activities were permissible.

Soft toy

Frank de Kleine/Flickr

The reasons behind the introduction of the latest decision on soft toys have also been unclear to many nurseries. Some report having been given no reason at all for the verbal ruling.

When contacted by Doha News, a MOLSA official said the reason for the soft toy ban was “to prevent asthma and in case any of the toys are infected or contaminated with germs.”

The official added that “nurseries cannot have any of these items, and children cannot bring them in from home.”

A 2006 study of Qatar schoolchildren (aged 6-14 years) by Dr. Ibrahim A. Janahi, head of pediatric pulmonary department at Hamad Hospital at the time, found that nearly one fifth (19.8 percent) had asthma.

While this figure is similar to other GCC countries (Oman had a rate of 20.7 percent), it is ahead of many other developing countries. A Weill Cornell report attributes the asthma in part to Qatar’s air pollution.

Effects

Raana Nasir, co-owner and manager of Treehouse Nursery in West Bay, said she got verbal notification of the new decision last month during a routine inspection by MOLSA staff.

The inspector spotted a six-month-old baby with a soft toy brought in from home and told Nasir that no soft toys were allowed – even as comforters or sleep aids for babies.

However, the MOLSA official who spoke to Doha News could not confirm if small blankets and comforters were also covered by the ban.

Speaking to Doha News, Nasir said:

“I don’t have soft toys in my nursery – I only have toys which can be wiped clean every day.

But this was a baby with its own toy, which isn’t shared with other children. I asked the inspector why the toy wasn’t allowed, but she wouldn’t give me a reason.”

Nasir said she had to advise the baby’s parents that the toy was no longer allowed – even for sleeping.

She added, “Maybe if it was a toy that was going to be shared with other children, the decision would make sense. But in this case, I can’t understand the reason.”

Another manager of a popular nursery, who asked not to be named, said she had planned to host a teddy bear’s picnic day, with the children bringing in their own soft toys for the party. But then the manager was told by MOLSA this would not be allowed.

The nursery had to change its plans, and wrote to all parents earlier this week to advise them of the new rule. Speaking to Doha News, the manager said:

“There are new decisions all the time. Now we go every month to the ministry, sit with them and find out what will and will not be allowed. It’s the only way to make sure our planned activities are approved.

Otherwise, it has been difficult for nurseries to get clear guidelines.”

However, she added that recently she had noted some improvement in MOLSA’s communication with nurseries.

International rules

The ban on soft toys in Qatar nurseries is not one practiced across the board in other countries. The UK’s National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) states that such toys are permissible, but adds in a fact sheet to nursery managers that the toys should be machine washable.

Guidance from the country’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) also requires that nurseries have a regular cleaning schedule for soft toys.

Official advice from the US state of Wisconsin to childcare providers similarly advises regular washing and sanitation of cloth toys.

New legislation

In January, Qatar passed Law No. 1 of 2014, putting into effect new restrictions governing nurseries. The six-month grace period that was given to nurseries to comply with the new law is set to expire in mid-June.

There are several new provisions in the law, including that:

  • Nurseries must now only accept children below four years of age. Under the law, a child must attend a kindergarten as soon as they turn four.
  • All staff directly involved in the care of children must be female. In addition, each nursery must have a qualified female manager, a female supervisor, a female nurse and a female nutritionist. The law says the qualifications required for these staff “are to be decided by the minister.”
  • Other required staff, including a driver, cleaners, security staff and a visiting doctor, may be male.

Last month, MOLSA hired 18 inspectors into its Department of Family Development to ensure nurseries are complying with the new regulations.

However, many nurseries report regular spot inspections for many months now.

Thoughts?