x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

New child protection law makes private schools accountable

GPS systems and CCTV cameras must be installed under laws protecting students from verbal, physical and psychological abuse.

ABU DHABI // Private schools in the capital will be liable for the protection of their students from verbal, physical and psychological abuse, according to a new child protection law.

The managers will also be held accountable for any violence and sexual assault that takes place on the school campus or while using school transport.

The law, imposed on private schools by Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), will come into effect in the coming months and requires schools to develop a policy whereby any suspicious activity is immediately reported to the principal and the council within 24 hours.

“The school has to produce and implement a law for child protection to prevent any kind of harm to children,” said Yousif al Sheryani, executive director of the Private Education and Quality Assurance Division at Adec.

Adec has also set up a dedicated e-mail address – child.protection@adec.ac.ae – to receive grievances from parents and teachers on any case of child abuse within schools.

Bus supervisors hired by the school need at least a middle school education and may not have a criminal record. Recommendation letters from past employers must be on record confirming the good character of the employee, and the driver must hold a clean driving licence.

“There should be a rigorous interview process with the drivers to ensure that are not impulsive or get infuriated by the slightest incident, jeopardising children’s lives,” said Mr al Sheryani.

He added that all schools will be expected to set up a GPS system and CCTV cameras within six months and female supervisors will be compulsory in buses transporting kindergarten children and female students.

“We do not want unnecessary trouble in these buses, so male monitors will not be allowed,” he said.
“Also, we think women are better in dealing with children and providing them support.”

Adec has also laid out detailed guidelines for acquiring operating licences. Schools will now become licensed in three stages: provisional, general and accredited.

New schools will receive a provisional licence and, on completion of their screening, will go on to acquire a general one. Once the school has met Adec’s standards during the inspection process, it will be granted an accredited licence, which is valid for three years if standards are maintained.

Schools will also be expected to adopt the country’s values, morals, traditions and culture. “They should commit not to engage in any activities that are contemptuous to religion,” said Mr al Sheryani.

Taaleem, the education group that owns Raha International School in Abu Dhabi, has female “nannies” in all the kindergarten buses, said Tom Matthew, the project director.

“The safety of the children is of utmost importance and their selection is very critical,” said Mr Matthew.
Raha International School also has a dedicated representative to receive feedback from the parents in the case of an issue.

aahmed@thenational.ae