Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 June 2019

Teacher 'not responsible' for child drowning at Sharjah school

Five other Australian International School staff members have been charged with negligence following the death of an Emirati boy in the school pool

A teacher at a Sharjah school where a boy drowned last year should not be held responsible for the young Emirati's death, a court heard on Sunday.

The Australian class teacher, 26, was one of six staff at Australian International School charged with negligence after a boy, 4, who was left unattended, drowned in a pool on the premises.

All of the accused denied the charges at Sharjah Court of Misdemeanours.

The teacher’s lawyer, Awatif Mohammed, from Al Rowaad Advocates, said her client’s actions could not be directly linked to the boy’s death, arguing that the teacher must then be cleared of the charge.

“As per law, there must be a direct link between my client’s action and the result, which is the tragic death of the boy, a link we do not have in this case,” she said.

Ms Mohammed pointed instead at the school, represented by its Emirati owner, 53, saying several complaints had been previously lodged against the school due to a lack of safety barriers surrounding the Olympic-size pool.

“An email from the head of the kindergarten in the school complained of a lack of swimming supervisors, and said there had been an incident of a child going underwater several times.”

She said her client could not be held responsible for the boy’s death because the teacher’s purview was restricted to the classroom and did not extend to the swimming pool area.

“There were 23 children that morning who arrived to the swimming area, which also includes the changing rooms, and this area is explicitly under the responsibility of the Lebanese swimming instructor, and his Italian assistant,” Ms Mohammed said.

The boy was found unconscious and fully clothed in the school’s pool last November 14 at nearly 10.15am. He had allegedly sneaked in for an unattended swim.

The swimming instructor carried him to the school clinic before an ambulance took the child to Al Qasimi Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11am.

Police were alerted to the incident by the hospital.

The school was charged with the criminal responsibility of its employees’ actions.

The swimming instructor, 36, his assistant, 44, a Filipino shadow teacher, 37, a Filipino bus attendant, 43, and the school owner were also charged with negligence that caused the child’s death.

Lawyers representing the five other defendants were given until March 10 to present their defence arguments to court.

Updated: February 24, 2019 07:20 PM