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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Closures, concern and anger as new nursery rules begin to bite

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Citing new regulations that all nurseries must operate only on the ground floor, one of Qatar’s most popular childcare chains has delayed the opening of three of its branches.

Starfish Lane Kids, which operates four nurseries in Doha, sent an email and text message to parents yesterday afternoon (Sept. 4) telling them that the nurseries would not open today as planned.

According to the nursery’s letter:

We now have far less space in which to operate. Therefore, to protect the quality of our program and insure the safety of Starfish children, teachers and staff, Starfish Lane will suspend operations at Starfish 1, Starfish 2 and Starfish 4 for one week. This will give us the time we need to organize the nursery for operation on the ground floor.

Parents are reacting to the news with anger and consternation. In a thread about the situation on a local parenting forum, one parent, who gave permission to be quoted by Doha News, said:

“My son goes to Starfish, and I’ve taken 3 weeks off work to stay with him during the nursery’s summer vacation. I have no idea what am I going to do tomorrow and I can’t inform my managers that I will not show up for another week on such a short notice.”

The new rules about single-floor operation were originally discussed in February, but no strict deadline was enforced.

However, a month after the tragic fire at Villagio that killed 19 people – including 13 children at daycare facility Gympanzee – the government announced it was drafting another new law to tighten regulations. 

A memo was sent to nurseries in June giving them three months to comply with the new no-upper floor regulations.

Doha News spoke to an official at the Social Affairs Ministry yesterday, and she told us that they were aware that some nurseries were still operating on two floors, but that they would be contacted this week and instructed to comply.

The short notice that parents at Starfish have been given only makes things worse, one mom says:

“As far as I am concerned,  a constant supply of honest and open communication would have gone a long way to allaying my frustration. I have had only reassurances, then heard nothing for two months and now this a day before start date.

“Even if they had told me that they were unsure of things I could have understood and sought alternative arrangements weeks ago. Which makes me concerned that the ‘delay of one week’ is just a tactic to keep us hanging when really they don’t know whether they can open or not.

Doha News has also been contacted by a parent whose child is attending a nursery which is still operating on two floors. They are very worried that the nursery will close at short notice leaving them with no childcare. 

Most nurseries made adjustments to their class sizes and staffing levels over the summer to accommodate the new rules.

However, many of these have had to forfeit play areas in the basement or first floor, and in some cases have divided up rooms to fit two classes inside, and even turned hallways into play rooms. Many have had to make staff redundant.

The letter Starfish sent to parents states that they expect “new regulations to be published shortly, which will find a provide a solution.”

Worried parents across Qatar will certainly be hoping this is the case. 

Here’s the full letter:

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo of a nursery classroom in Kuwait by Steve and Jemma Copley

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