Programmes to ensure schools have an adequate number of staff trained in first aid are being developed by government agencies.
The Ministry of Health, which regulates health care at 80 public schools in Dubai and all schools in the Northern Emirates, introduced a free training programme for Dubai schools in 2010.
Staff at 60 schools have been trained so far, with plans to cover the rest by the end of the year.
The ministry recommends that schools have at least five or six staff trained in first aid on their grounds at all times, or a ratio of one first-aider for every 60 pupils for schools with more than 500 youngsters.
But schools are not required to comply with the recommendation.
“We have no penalty actions against these schools if they do not follow this percentage. These are only advisory procedures. No legal action is taken against schools who are not cooperative with us,” said Ahmad El Hamed, deputy director of nursing with the ministry.
“We dream of having certain penalty actions. But we need a policy, we need a decree from anyone authorised to put such penalty actions in place, we cannot force them as our role is in awareness and education.”
Ideally, social workers, schools supervisors and physical education instructors, should all be trained in first aid, Mr El Hamed said.
Schools are usually cooperative but the busy schedules of teachers, coupled with limited manpower, can pose a challenge.
“What we would love to see is every staff member trained,” said Dr Khulood Eid Al Suwaidi, the ministry’s director of school health for Dubai. “Other emirates are also following suit as this is part of a broader goal by the ministry to have sufficient first aiders across all its schools.”
A plan is also under way by the Ministry of Education to ensure that teachers at public schools are trained in first aid.
This includes a dedicated course for pupils, said Ayesha Alsiri, director of nutrition and school health at the education ministry.
“Many schools have already done this through their own initiatives but not all schools, so we would like to make it consistent,” she said.
The Dubai Health Authority offers training programmes to individuals and companies. It also partners with its school health team to train school staff and nurses.