Nurseries in Qatar have been told that they can no longer organize field trips or have children take part in “dangerous” activities such as swimming, according to new rules issued to them by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA).
The rules are causing some confusion among nursery managers over which water activities are permissible.
Water play such as swimming in small pools or splashing around in paddle pools is a popular activity in nursery schools here, especially in the summer as it gives children a chance to cool off.
MOLSA sent a letter to nurseries on April 24 outlining the new rules.
The key points, translated into English, include:
- Any activities which seems to be dangerous for the children such as (swimming) is prohibited;
- Any activities outside the nursery such as (parties or tours) or any outdoor activities are also prohibited; and
- Nurseries are required to let the ministry know before they plan to close (for holidays).
Kimberley Sheedy, managing director of Starfish Lane Kids, which has four nursery branches across Doha, said that she was writing to the ministry to seek clarification on the issue of water play.
She added that Starfish Lane Kids does not undertake any field trips.
However, Nadene Shameem, manager of British curriculum nursery Busy Bees, said field trips are a popular teaching tool for children.
The new rules have forced her to re-plan many activities, including a trip to Carrefour that had been scheduled for the end of May as part of a project on “jobs my daddy does.”
Shameem said she has also revised water-play activities so that the children will not have paddling pools or anything where they get into the water, but will instead play at water tables.
In a letter to parents sent on May 1 advising them of the changes, Shameem said:
“It is with deep regret I write to inform you that with immediate effect, we are no longer allowed to have water play activities or to have field trips of any kind outside of the nursery grounds. The Family Development unit at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MOL&SA), have informed us in writing that these activities must cease.
It is a huge blow to us as the children adore the water play sessions and especially the field trips and I strongly feel it is a very important part of their learning curve towards their safety training in water and their knowledge and understanding of the world.”
She asked parents to contact the ministry to ask them to reconsider their decision.
Speaking to Doha News, Shameem said she was particularly upset about the cancelations of all field trips, which she regarded as an important aspect of the children’s education and of their growing up:
“We had lots of field trips planned for next year and I have had to cancel them all. We are always extremely careful and do lots of planning before any trip, going on a full reconnaissance to make sure every aspect of the trip has been fully thought through and we have never had a single accident or incident.
Now we will have to focus on bringing people in to the nursery instead.”
The new rules come as nurseries are preparing for the official implementation of a new law (Law No. 1 of 2014) that was passed at the beginning of the year to further regulate nurseries.
The Ministry introduced a six-month grace period for nurseries to comply with the new provisions, which is due to end in mid-June.
According to a statement on its website, MOLSA has also recruited 18 inspectors into its Department of Family Development to undertake checks on nurseries to ensure they are complying with the new regulations.
Although the law has yet to be published online, provisions of the law include:
- Nurseries must now only accept children below four years of age. Under the law, a child must attend a kindergarten as soon as they turn four.
- All staff directly involved in the care of children must be female. In addition, each nursery must have a qualified female manager, a female supervisor, a female nurse and a female nutritionist. The law says the qualifications required for these staff “are to be decided by the minister.”
- Other required staff, including a driver, cleaners, security staff and a visiting doctor, may be male.
The legislation also brings new licensing rules into effect. All nurseries, including those already in operation, will be required to apply for a new license within six months. Applicants must be over the age of 21, and have a clean criminal record.
Under the license conditions, nursery owners must leave a QR100,000 security deposit with MOLSA when applying, which will be returned when the license is terminated, minus any fines for violations of the law.
At the time of the announcement, the new regulations caused some confusion and concern – particularly with the introduction of the new age limit of four years for all children, which left some parents scrabbling around for places at already over-subscribed kindergartens and pre-schools.
The need for a nutritionist to be employed by the nursery has also been questioned, particularly when many nurseries in Qatar do not provide catering, but require children to bring in their own food.
Nursery managers told Doha News that despite the grace period, they have been regularly inspected by the Ministry to ensure they are complying with the new regulations – and that the inspectors have been particularly interested in the age rule.
“We had to close our admissions to all the older children and have had to change all our adverts now to clearly state that we take children only up until four years.
For September, we are taking some children who will be 3 years and 7 months, but as soon as they turn four, they have to leave.”
However, not all nurseries felt the rules have limited their activities. The manager of a popular child care center, who did not wish to be named, said that her nursery already followed procedures according to the new rules.
“I think the new rules are a welcome addition – they are exactly what is needed.
“There are so many nurseries here which are not abiding by the rules, it is important for the safety of the children to make sure that everyone is following them.”
MOLSA was not immediately available for comment.