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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Tighter checks on teachers create a safer environment for our children

Vetting people who work with children is a complex task but the safety of pupils must be paramount

Ensuring pupil safety is a top priority in the nation's schools. Getty Images
Ensuring pupil safety is a top priority in the nation's schools. Getty Images

The decision that all teachers applying for jobs in Dubai must supply the authorities with good conduct certificates from all the countries in which they worked in the past five years is a welcome extension of the checks already in place. Until now, teachers coming to work in UAE schools for the first time have had to provide certificates issued by police in the country they have most recently departed.

This is of limited value when dealing with highly mobile, international employees. Now Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority is demanding deeper background information.

In February the UAE’s Ministry of Labour introduced a regulation calling on anyone coming to work in the UAE in any role to provide a certificate issued by police in their home nation. That rule was suspended in April after embassies complained of being flooded with requests and businesses struggled to understand the rules. Hiring an engineer is one thing. Employing someone who will be in daily contact with children is quite another, and it is absolutely right that this line is now being drawn at schools.

While the new requirement will be an additional bureaucratic burden for schools and teachers, educators will be the first to agree that the safety of children must be the paramount priority of all concerned. Countries with a transient population, where schools rely on teachers from a wide range of nations, face particular challenges when it comes to shielding children from sex offenders.

This issue has been thrown into sharp focus twice in the past 12 months alone. In February, an American teacher at a school in Dubai was arrested in the US on child sex charges when he flew home to meet a minor he had groomed online. In December last year a British-German teacher at a private school in Al Ain was jailed in Abu Dhabi for downloading child pornography on the internet.

Vetting people who want to work with children can never be a foolproof process – only those who have previously been caught offending will have been barred from teaching or have a criminal record and some, inevitably, will slip through even the tightest of nets.

But the drawing up and application of stringent, standardised measures will do much to discourage those with mal-intent and to reassure parents that everything possible is being done to protect their children.