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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 13 November 2018

Parents call for bag checking at schools

Children as young as seven caught bringing weapons to the classroom

Four private schools in Abu Dhabi have been rated outstanding in the latest government inspections. Victor Besa / The National
Four private schools in Abu Dhabi have been rated outstanding in the latest government inspections. Victor Besa / The National

Parents are calling for tight controls to protect pupils after a survey in Dubai showed that thousands of children feel unsafe in the classroom.

A parent in Ajman whose son, 7, was suspended because he carried a switchblade to school said pupils’ bags should be searched on their arrival at school.

“Every pupil will think twice before taking any dangerous object to school,” said the Syrian mother, Shireen Mussalam, 45.

Nora Khaled, another mother in Ajman, was shocked when nursery staff said her daughter, 3, was carrying a nail cutter.

“It’s the kind that has a small knife in it,” said the Egyptian mother, 40.

“Of course she means no harm and doesn’t even understand the type of object she had. But this is the problem – children are mostly unaware of the dangers of objects they carry.”

Nael Saleem, a father of three boys aged 10 to 14, wants bag inspections imposed after one of his children was caught carrying knuckledusters.

He is a good boy, he was just showing off the latest fad to fellow teenagers. But let’s face it – if a fight happens, he will most probably use it and hurt another pupil,” he said.

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Read more:

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The survey carried out by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai at the end of 2017 showed that 11 per cent of the 64,686 pupils polled did not feel safe at school.

A similar study in Abu Dhabi revealed that one in three pupils in the capital have been attacked at school.

Research by the Department of Education and Knowledge, the emirate’s education authority, showed that 32.5 per cent of public school pupils and 32.9 per cent of private school pupils reported being subject to physical assaults.

The concerns over violence at schools are echoed throughout the country. In Sharjah last year, a pupil at an American primary school unintentionally burnt a classmate with a lighter while they were playing.

For schools to adopt a daily security check, they need to get approval from their education regulator, either the Ministry of Education in the Northern Emirates, Abu Dhabi Education Council or the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai.

Yaqoob Al Hammadi, a social specialist in Al Shahbaa School in Sharjah, said that during occasional unannounced inspections, they have found items such as blades, matches, lighters, metal compasses, cigarettes, small iron bars and even knuckle dusters.

“Pupils must be searched periodically and suddenly because we find many dangerous tools with them and we confiscate them on the spot.”

Pupils who spoke to The National said many of their schoolmates bring weapons to school to "show off", but others say many would use them if they got into a fight.

A 12-year-old pupil said: "One student was expelled when a flick knife fell out of his backpack - he didn't bring it to show off, if he got into a fight, he would use it.”