Survey finds majority of children feel safe but more than 10 per cent are worried about misbehaviour
Parents and teachers must work together to tackle classroom disruption, Dubai's education regulator says
Dubai's education regulator has called on parents and teachers to work together to tackle bullying and bad behaviour in schools, after a study showed thousands of pupils feel unsafe in the classroom.
A poll of 64,686 grade 6 to 9 pupils at 168 schools by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority found that 11 per cent - more than 6,000 - do not feel safe in school.
The Dubai Student Wellbeing Census asked the pupils, aged 12 to 14, if they agreed with the statement "I feel safe at school", with 77 per cent saying they do, 12 per cent saying they neither agree or disagree, and the remaining 11 per cent disagreeing with the statement.
The data was collected at the end of 2017.
In June, video footage showing pupils wrecking a classroom in the UAE was widely shared on social media.
The footage was condemned by the Ministry of Education.
Hind Al Mualla, chief of creativity, happiness and innovation at Knowledge and Human Development Authority, says parents, schools and decision-makers must all work together to tackle the misbehaviour of pupils.
"Pupils' well-being and safety is the responsibility of all stakeholders – schools, teachers, parents, policymakers and operators – and we must all work together to ensure children feel happy and safe," said Ms Al Mualla.
"If the child demonstrates negative or bullying traits, it’s as much the parents’ role to intercept this behaviour as it is the school’s to ensure that all classrooms are safe spaces for pupils."
Ms Al Mualla said schools should focus on creating a respectful and caring climate for pupils to learn in.
"Pupils that feel safe at school are more likely to also feel that there is care and respect between people at school and that pupils feel like they belong in this school and are important to the school. Feeling safe is more about the school environment and whether there is support for pupils. Therefore, the focus for schools should be to develop a climate that helps students feel safe and happy at school,” she said.
Based on the findings of the first census, the KHDA organised a number of workshops to help schools understand the data and create policies to improve areas based on the needs of each individual school.
The new school term begins next month and Ms Al Mualla has called for effective communication between schools, pupils and parents to help create a better environment for children and "reduce pressures" which may cause some pupils to misbehave.
"Schools can also seek professional advice from the concerned entities on how to tackle incidents in schools and reduce them,” she added.
The education body recommends schools introduce initiatives supporting pupil well-being.
Clive Pierrepont, director of communications at the school operator Taaleem, said they do not conduct bag searches in their schools and have not had any recent incidents of pupils sneaking dangerous objects into schools.
Dubai British School has prohibited the use of mobile phones during school hours and Greenfield Community School is using mindfulness to help pupils gain a sense of calm.
Parents in Dubai said they have never heard of violence in schools in Dubai but are in favour of bag checks at schools.
Ayesha Umair, a Pakistani mother, said she is satisfied with the way schools are regulating.
"I think all parents inherit a worry bug when they become parents so worry is always there," she said.
"I am not opposed to having bag checks if necessary," she said.
Clementina Kongslund, an expatriate living in Dubai, has two children, aged five and eight, studying at Gems Schools.
"I'm not worried for their safety but they can get hurt on the playground very easily, but these are accidents. Otherwise, safety measures and procedures are in place and the kids come home just with the usual scratches and bruises that we all had when we were children,” said Ms Kongslund, who is the founder of Dubai Mums, a forum for expatriate mothers in Dubai.
She said she has never heard of children bringing blades to schools in Dubai but said schools should have CCTV to ensure the safety of pupils and uncover incident of bullying.
"I think bullying is the most harmful experience that can be in a school nowadays. I think children wouldn't bring any kind of weapons in school if they didn't feel threatened," she said.