x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Wadeema’s Law: Hundreds of UAE nursery staff learn to spot child abuse

Memory of tortured 8-year-girl leads to hundreds nursery teachers being trained to identify abuse of children under their care, as part of a government-run programme aimed at protecting young children.

Dubai // At least two members of staff at every nursery will be required to undergo training in how to identify signs of child abuse.

A batch of 250 trainees from private nurseries will be the first to undertake a free government-run training programme that begins on Monday.

The lessons are being taught in English and the programme takes three days, which need not be consecutive. All 250 staff will be fully trained by January 22.

Eventually each of the country’s 392 licensed nurseries will be required to have at least two staff who have undergone the training, which covers the basic aspects of protecting children from abuse and negligence, and the legal aspects of supporting possible victims.

Trained staff will become designated child protection coordinators at their nurseries and will be responsible for reporting any risks to children in their nurseries’ care.

The training programme run by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Ministry of Interior has been launched in response to Wadeema’s Law. The law – named after an eight-year-old girl who was tortured and killed by her father and his girlfriend – includes an article making it compulsory for anyone working with children to report abuse.

“We want to empower nursery staff with the knowledge they need to meet their obligations towards the children, their profession and the law,” said Lt Col Faisal Al Shammari, director of the child protection centre at the Ministry of Interior.

“Nursery staff play an important role in the fight against abuse and negligence as they spend many hours with the children and can spot indications of abuse.”

About 4,500 staff are employed in nurseries. “Studies have shown that the majority of abused children are below the age of 5 as they are unable to express themselves and they are also unaware of what happens to them, but there are signs to spot and the role of nursery supervisors in this regard is important,” said Mooza Al Shoomi, director of the child department at the Ministry of Social Affairs.

She said the initiative would also include a survey on child abuse victims under the age of 5.

Nurseries welcomed the move.

Kieny Watts, the general manager of the Hummingbird Early Learning Centre in Dubai, described it as a “brilliant idea”.

“Educators need to be able to identify whether there has been abuse or if the child has hurt himself,” she said.

wissa@thenational.ae