x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Parents told not to leave children home alone

Following the deaths of two boys who had been left unattended, authorities and educators are warning parents to ensure that their children constantly receive adequate supervision.

DUBAI // Authorities and educators yesterday urged parents and caregivers to ensure that children always have adequate supervision following the recent deaths of two young boys who were left unattended.

Officials, seeking to hold parents accountable, have also warned that caregivers can be jailed or fined for leaving children unwatched if the lack of supervision leads to a child's death or permanent disability.

"Parents have to consciously find out and be aware what their children are doing in their absence. Most parents usually do that or have a stand-by arrangement," said Vandana Marwaha, the principal of the Delhi Private School, Sharjah.

The twelve-year-old Daniel Kuriakose, who was a pupil at the school, died alone on Sunday after accidentally hanging himself on a karate belt. His mother had been just minutes away from returning home.

Daniel's school will urge parents at an open house next month to closely monitor their young children. "We will address parents on the need for a vigilant system at the open house meet," Mrs Marwaha said.

Daniel's accident followed that of a five-year-old Dubai boy who died 10 days ago when he fell from an eighth-floor window. His distraught mother threw herself to her death from the same window moments later.

A Dubai prosecutor, who did not wish to be named, said yesterday that the five-year-old's mother could have faced up to three years in prison or a Dh10,000 fine had she not died.

"The one responsible is the care giver in the place of the accident," the prosecutor said. "For example, the nanny, the maid or the school attendant who deal with children will be held responsible if the children, while in their care, were in danger or injured."

In the wake of these deaths, Mrs Marwaha said the Government should set up day care centres to take care of children while their parents were at work. She and several parents agreed that mothers and fathers must be more responsible, but they also said that Government schools should provide care for children after school hours.

"There is no social support especially in the UAE," Mrs Marwaha said.

"We need to address the issue on a larger scale. The government should look at providing a day-care system. The confidence of parents would be higher that way."

She also said that it was not possible for many parents to afford nannies or other individual care.

Because of stringent Government regulations, logistical and infrastructure restrictions, schools could not provide full-time day care, either.

Some parents said Government-run establishments would be a welcome solution.

"It would be ideal if they were available," said Stanley Mathews, the father of a 14-year-old boy.

His son, who shows features of autism, needs constant care and attention. "My wife never leaves my son alone," he said, adding that 15 was an acceptable age limit to leave children unattended.

"It is difficult to define an age limit," said Dr Gowri Ramanathan, an obstetrics and gynaecology consultant. "Some children mature faster. There is not enough support for parents. There is a lack of nurseries in offices or hospitals."

Dr Ramanathan, who is also the mother of a three-year-old boy, said she has a full-time nanny to watch her son. She said that extra-curricular and non-academic activities after school could help "engage children in a healthy manner" until their parents returned home.

She also stressed the need for day-care centres and youth clubs for children of all ages.

Last month, the five-year-old Iranian boy fell to his death from an apartment window in Jumeirah Lake Towers while his mother was at the building entrance, waiting for the school bus with her 14-year-old daughter. Police said the boy had climbed onto a table near the window.

The mother had rushed back to the apartment after seeing him dangling from the open window and, minutes later, jumped to her death when she was unable to save him.

In Sharjah yesterday, police continued to investigate the case of Daniel, the Grade 6 pupil whose neck was caught in a karate belt on Sunday as he jumped from a chair that had been placed next to the door.

His parents, who were expected to leave last night for his burial in India, believed that the knotted end of the belt became tangled on the door knob, wrapped around Daniel's neck, pulled him backward, and strangled him.

It is unclear whether Daniel's parents will be charged with a crime related to his death.

Under law, a person who endangers the life of a child less than seven years of age can be imprisoned from one month to three years, or can be fined up to Dh10,000. The punishment can be levied if the caregiver has left the child without proper supervision, resulting in the permanent disability or death of the child.

In the case of a child less than 15 years of age, a caregiver who has left a child unattended can be imprisoned for two years if the child suffers permanent disability or death.

pkannan@thenational.ae

salamir@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Yasin Kakande