Browsing 'SEC' News

SEK library's copy of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Hassan Alsai/Twitter

SEK library’s copy of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

A private school in Qatar has removed a copy of the children’s fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from its library after a parent complained that the illustrations in it were indecent.

Qatar’s Supreme Education Council ordered the move after investigating concerns made by an unnamed parent of a student at SEK International School in Dafna on social media.

The parent had said the Penguin edition of the classic Disney story contained culturally “inappropriate” images, the school told Doha News. 

Apology

The head teacher of the privately-run Spanish school has apologized for what she said was an “unintended situation.”

In a statement to Doha News, Principal Vivian Arif said:

“The school took immediate action and removed the book from the library and has revised and enforced the procedures to ensure that this type of incident will not happen again.

SEK International School Qatar is proud to be established in this country and presents its formal apologies for any offence that this unintended situation may have caused.”

The school opened just over two years ago, and has in place procedures for staff to ensure “the laws, traditions and ethics of the Qatari community” are followed, she said.

“We deeply respect the culture of Qatar, we are committed to the promotion of its values and principles, and we will keep on working so that our school is always a reference for its commitment and service to the people of Qatar,” Arif added.

The book is an abridged, early-readers’ version of the story, according to details on an international, online book store.

The school did not give further detail on what the offending images were, but the front cover of the book shows the princess and the prince in each other’s arms.

In the story, the princess is woken by a kiss from the prince, after she eats a poisoned apple and falls into a comatose state.

Public displays of affection such as kissing and hugging with members of the opposite sex are considered culturally inappropriate in Qatar.

‘Indecent images’

This week, Al Sharq, which first covered the story, reported that the father who raised the complaint was “flabbergasted” at the illustrations in the book, which were described as “inappropriate,” “indecent” and “containing illustrations and phrases that have sexual innuendoes.”

The newspaper also reported that the book was being taught in the classroom, but director of the SEC’s Private Schools Office said this was incorrect.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Speaking to Doha News, Hamad Mohammed Al Ghali Al Marri said that the book was stocked in the school’s library for free-reading.

“Like all western fairy tales, you know they always have a bit of romance,” Al Marri said.

He added that the incident was “not out of the ordinary,” saying the school was cooperative when approached regarding the subject and immediately withdrew the book.

Regulations

All schools in Qatar are required to follow SEC-issued regulations detailing which books and learning materials are permitted and culturally appropriate.

Al Marri said the school was reminded of its need to follow the rules and warned that such incidents cannot be repeated and will not be tolerated.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Karoly Czifra/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

These guidelines are very clear and stipulate that no school material can be in conflict with Islamic values and Qatari norms, Al Marri added.

While the SEC is responsible for regulating schools’ literature, all books sold in shops in Qatar are vetted by the state’s Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage.

Al Marri said the Snow White book was on sale in several bookshops in the country, although did not say which. “Perhaps it needs to be banned from shops too,” he added.

Online anger

This week, the SEC has tweeted excerpts of the school’s apology in response to a discussion launched by Qatari journalist and TV presenter Hassan Al Sai.

However, some said it wasn’t enough:

Translation: An apology is useless. The entity responsible for supervising school syllabuses and material should be held accountable and whoever failed at their job should not go unpunished.

Translation: This investigation should include the school, the coordinator, the academic delegate and the principal because they are all incriminated in this wrongdoing. That’s if the education policy is on the right path.

Translation: This is not the first time (something like this happened) and the SEC has not done anything in the past to hold those responsible accountable. Therefore, such incidents continue to take place and uglier stuff will continue to happen.

This is not the first time Qatar has grappled with questions of cultural appropriateness.

Films are regularly censored here to cut out kissing and other scenes of intimacy, and pictures of women in bikinis or showing cleavage in magazines are blacked out before they go on sale.

Strawberries and Champagne lotion.

Cosmoniki

Strawberries and Champagne lotion.

Last January, Qatar’s Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) pulled stocks of perfumes and scented lotions labeled “VS Fantasies: Strawberries & Champagne” from the Victoria’s Secret store in Landmark mall, saying they contravened the “customs, traditions and religious values” of the nation.

And bottles of perfume featuring the Playboy bunny logo were removed from Family Food Center in Al Sadd following complaints about the branding.

Thoughts?

For illustrative purposes only

MoI/Facebook

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar’s Emir has signed into law new penalties for private schools found to be operating without the proper licenses and approvals from the state’s regulatory authority, including jail terms of up to two years and fines up to QR100,000.

Law No. 23 of 2015, approved by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, updates the previous legislation for privately-run schools, which dates back 35 years.

It enshrines into law the Supreme Education Council‘s (SEC) responsibility to approve all teaching materials, textbooks and other aids to ensure they are “compatible with religious values, customs and traditions of society,” according to Article 19 of an unofficial translation of the new law, which Al Sharq has published in Arabic.

Materials, tools or curriculum that don’t meet these standards can be withdrawn from use or be ordered to be changed, the law adds.

In force

Schools have one year to comply with the new legislation, a grace period that may be extended by the education minister for up to another year at his discretion.

Before opening, all private schools must apply in advance to the SEC for a license to operate. These will be issued for between one to tfive years, and are renewable.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Remake Learning

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Schools cannot operate without a license or make any changes to their license without pre-approval from the SEC.

Article 24 also requires schools to get prior approval from the SEC for its fees and any changes, according to regulations established by the country’s Education Minister.

Those operating without a license or who have changed the terms of their license without getting SEC approval face fines of up to QR100,000 and/or up to two years in jail according to the penalties laid out in Chapter 5 of the law.

The court can also order that an erring school be closed for up to 60 days, the law states.

Fines of up to QR100,000 can also be imposed on those who are found to have submitted false information to the authorities about the school or have wrong information on the outside of the school or in any of its publications.

Schools are also banned from receiving any funding or donations without approval from the SEC, and face fines of QR100,000 maximum if they are found to be violating this rule.

Finally, the new law requires schools to ensure that their daily timings as well as the start and end of their academic year and official holidays comply with decisions made on these issues by the SEC.

Previous decisions

In recent years, most schools have fallen in line with the SEC’s decisions on these issues, particularly the unified summer holiday dates that have been in effect since 2012.

The SEC oversees both Qatar’s state-funded independent schools, and also privately-run schools, including community schools, through its Private Schools Office.

Recently, the council announced that the 2016/17 academic year for independent schools will begin on Sept. 18, 2016, which is later than usual due to the Eid Al Adha holidays.

While it did not specifically mention private schools in this decision, the provisions of the new law mean that institutions will be obliged to follow the same schedule.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar Olympic and Sport Museum / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The new law also details that the council controls school buildings, facilities, equipment and all the materials and resources used for teaching within schools.

The SEC has recently published on its website detailed regulations relating to setting up and licensing private schools in Qatar, a full version of which can be found here.

With places in the state sector reserved for Qatari children, or for those with parents working in some government entities, the majority of non-Qatari families have to educate their children privately.

As Qatar’s population has soared in recent years, the cost of living has also risen, including the price of school tuition. Government figures published in August this year noted an 11 percent year-on-year rise for school fees in Qatar.

This figure is broad, and doesn’t take into account the massive disparity in fee levels for different schools in Qatar, which can range from QR10,000 a year to more than QR60,000 per student.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Summerbl4ck / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Still, amid complaints in recent years of increasing fees, last year the SEC brought in new protocols for schools wanting to increase fees and charges.

The council decides the maximum increase permissible for each school, based on criteria including the financial situation of the school, whether it has increased fees previously and parents’ and pupils’ assessment of the teachers.

However, schools have argued that the SEC’s limitations don’t take into account their rising costs, particularly in terms of teachers’ salaries and housing needs.

Some head teachers have also said that the rules discriminate established schools versus new schools, which can set their base fees at a much higher rate.

Thoughts?

H1N1 flu virus particles

NIAID/Flickr

H1N1 flu virus particles

An independent (public) school in western Doha has closed for the day after three girls from the same family were diagnosed with the H1N1 flu virus.

The unnamed pupils appeared to attend Omama bint Hamzah Independent Primary School for Girls, which is in Bani Hajer in Al Rayyan according to a tweet by Qatar’s education minister Dr. Mohamed Al Hammadi last night.

H1N1 is known colloquially as “swine flu” and is a contagious influenza virus that spreads from person to person through coughing, sneezing or talking to people.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

itsv/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

When it was first diagnosed in Mexico in 2009, it became a pandemic and caused many deaths. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) now considers it to be a regular seasonal flu virus.

In a statement in Arabic, the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) confirmed that three female students, who were from the same family but in different classes at the school, had the H1N1 Influenza A virus.

It said it coordinated with the school to ensure it took appropriate precautions, which included vaccinating administrative and teaching staff and those students who were in contact with the affected girls.

The council added that the school made its own decision to close for a day, without consultation with the SCH.

“In such a situation, it is not recommended to close the school because the type of flu virus, as defined by the World Health Organization, is seasonal.

It should be sufficient to isolate those infected until their symptoms subside, clean surfaces with household disinfectant and vaccinate,” the SCH said.

Qatar’s education minister added that since the cases were identified, the school has been working with Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) to monitor the situation daily.

Al Hammadi added that the school had taken the “precautionary measure” of closing for a day to clean and disinfect classrooms.

In an attempt to quell panic among some parents who voiced their concern on internet forums last night, the health council added:

“The virus does not constitute and epidemic threat as most of the cases are infected with mild to moderate strains and recover after being vaccinated and receiving the available anti-virus.”

The SCH said it was coordinating with the Supreme Education Council (SEC), which would be sending out advice on precautionary measures to take to avoid the spread of flu in schools and other educational institutes.

What is H1N1?

There are three types of seasonal flu virus – A, B and C – and H1N1 is one of two strains of influenza A that are currently circulating among humans, WHO says.

Flu shot

WHO

Flu shot

WHO classifies influenza as “a viral infection that affects mainly the nose, throat, bronchi and, occasionally, lungs. Infection usually lasts for about a week, and is characterized by sudden onset of high fever, aching muscles, headache and severe malaise, non-productive cough, sore throat and rhinitis.”

Influenza A and B are currently included in the seasonal flu vaccine, while the rarer type C is not.

It transmits easily, and can spread rapidly during seasonal epidemics. While the majority of people infected with it recover after a week or two without needing medical treatment, it can be more serious among the elderly, very young and those with other medical conditions.

According to WHO’s latest online influenza update, which was published on Nov. 2 but was based on data from Oct. 18: “western Asia, Bahrain and Qatar reported increased influenza activity, predominantly due to influenza A (H1N1)pdm09.”

Flu in Qatar

Qatar’s seasonal flu season usually starts in October and continues until the end of February, according to Dr. Hamad Eid Al Rumaihi, the Supreme Council of Health’s (SCH) director of health protection and combating infectious disease.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Daniel Paquet/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Last week, the government launched a new campaign to encourage residents, particularly those with vulnerable immune systems, to get the flu vaccine.

This year, the SCH has increased the number of available flu vaccines from 70,000 to 105,000 to accommodate more residents,and vaccines will be available until the end of May at numerous public and private clinics across the country.

You can find out more about the flu shot, what it is and where to get it in our quick primer here.

In its statement, the SCH said it monitors flu activity daily including the number of new cases and those who have had follow-up treatment in hospital.

HMC’s national influenza center records the total number of people infected with the virus and the type of virus, the health council added.

Thoughts?