Browsing 'villagio fire' News

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

An art teacher in Qatar is embarking on a month long art project in memory of the 19 children and adults who died in the Villagio fire.

Patric Rozario explains on his blog:

We plan to get together children from Qatar to create art collectively in memory of those fire victims, and gift it to the parents or relatives of those who are not with us anymore. We will personally deliver paintings to the parents, relatives or friends who are still in Doha. For parents, relatives and friends of victims who have left Doha – we will courier it to them.

The first session will be held on Friday the 6th July. Parents who would like their children to participate should call 974-55751450, or email [email protected].

Credit: Photo by Omar Chatriwala

A remembrance event is due to be held at Villagio’s car park on Friday, a month after the tragic fire which killed 19 people.  These are the details of the event, which is posted on Facebook:

In memory of our loved ones lost in the Villaggio Mall fire we shall all be gathering at the decided location. Please bring along a helium balloon which we shall all release at the same time. Feel free 2 attach a message 2 it as well.

To those not present or located somewhere else in the world…you are more than welcome 2 join in where ever you are. It will take place on Friday 29th June at 5:00pm for balloons 2 be released at 5:45pm (Qatar time).

Meanwhile, we have been given the following statement from Nike, whose store in Villagio was found to be the source of the fire in the government report, released on June the 13th.

Nike is deeply saddened by the deaths three weeks ago at the Villagio Mall in Qatar and our sympathies go out to the families involved.
Nike is aware that the investigative report into the fire has been completed by local authorities and the Nike store, owned and operated by our Middle East distributor, was part of the investigation. Nike is seeking further clarity around a number of elements raised in the report before providing further comment.”

Who’s going?

Ramy Khalaf contributed to this report.

Credit: Photo by Omar Chatriwala