DUBAI // An illegal home nursery caring for 17 children in unsafe and unsanitary conditions was raided and shut down by the Ministry of Social Affairs this week.
The ministry received a complaint about the nursery in Ras Al Khaimah on Monday. Ministry staff entered the home in cooperation with police on Tuesday and found 17 young children in the care of one woman.
The woman, the household mother, was charging families Dh300 a month, said Moza Al Shoomi, head of the ministry's child department. Many of the children were found crowded into one room with the mother.
"Nobody is working with her, nobody is helping her to care for 17 children," Ms Al Shoomi said.
In another room, they found children left with the family's teenage son, who was sleeping, Ms Al Shoomi said.
"How you leave your son sleeping near these kids?" she said. "And they have only one bathroom, and it is very bad – the smell, everything."
By law, nurseries must be licensed by the ministry. Officials believe there are other unlicensed home nurseries and are planning a campaign to find them and shut them down.
"We are working in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi," Ms Al Shoomi said. "We think there are some houses like that."
At the nursery in Ras Al Khaimah, ministry officials called the parents of all 17 children and told them to come to the home and remove them. Some of the parents said they resorted to using the nursery because they could not afford the high fees of other nurseries. Others said they had left their children in the care of the woman because they knew her.
"Some parents said, 'We have a relationship with this family, they are not like a nursery'," Ms Al Shoomi said. "Not like a nursery [with] 17 children there? How is that not like a nursery?"
The children removed from the nursery will receive health examinations, she said.
Ms Al Shoomi said she could not disclose the exact nationality of the woman running the nursery, but said she was Arab and lived in the home with her husband, two sons and four daughters.
Police are following up on the case.
The nursery would not have passed the ministry's licensing inspection because the home was unfit, without enough space for the children and no area for them to play, Ms Al Shoomi said.
"It is a very old house, very old and very dirty," she said. "And only two rooms."
She added that the parents who were trying to save money on fees could have found licensed nurseries in Ras Al Khaimah for comparable prices, at Dh400 to Dh500 per month.
"They are under our control, if anything happens," Ms Al Shoomi said.