DOHA: Qatar plans to grant facilities for nurseries, to enhance early childhood development provisions in the country, according to an expert. Currently most of the nurseries and pre-schools operate from villas, which hamper the required safety and health provisions in nurseries, according to Najat Al Abdullah, Director of Family Affairs Department, Ministry of Social Affairs.
Safety and health requirements of nurseries are mostly in compromised here as these service run in housing facilities. Also, since these buildings are not tailor made for pre-schools, it can have negative effect on the mental and physical growth of the infants there, according to experts at a workshop on mandatory safety and health requirements of nurseries organised by Ministry of Social Affairs yesterday.
“It is important to train the supervisors and staff at these facilities on first aid, evacuation methods, and create awareness about safety and health conditions. This is because majority of these nurseries run services for children below four years of age- a time when they need special care that help develop their mental and physical stimuli,” said Al Abdullah. “Nurseries should have suitable environment in terms of safety and health that help in mental, behavioural and physical growth of children. They should fulfil all the safety and health requirements. There is a government plan to give building for nurseries; we are studying the issues,” she said.
The workshop aimed at giving guidelines these centres needed to promote the health and safety of the children. Officials from the social affairs ministry, Supreme council of Health and Civil Defence, participated in the workshop along with operators and staff of number of nurseries here.
“We do see number of violations during our yearly inspection in these facilities. Majority of them are because these nurseries are housed in facilities that are not purpose build. They work in villas converted to nurseries and hence there are many challenges which are difficult to overcome, and so we need to help them find solutions,” Fatima Kamel Al Otoum, Supervisor of schools and food safety, Department of Public Health, SCH, told The Peninsula.
Majority of the nurseries, since they operate from villas, have two floors. The experts stress the operators take needed precautionary measures before admitting children. “The engineering plan of the facility should be in confirmation to fire safety requirements. It is important that the classes in nurseries should only be run in ground floor, for easy evacuation. The windows should not have grills and if they do, it should be easy to open. There should be two exists in the ground floor with the doors opening to outside and the building materials used must be fire resistant at least for two hours, and hence should not be run from portacabins,” said Lt Mohammed Ibrahim Al Sulaiti from the Civil Defence.
Since most f the facilities are made for family living, infant-friendly facilities are not available in many of the centres. Washrooms are not equipped for children of very young age, hand railings are absent on the steps, steps are usually paved with ceramic tiles, and infant nappy change areas are absent. “It is mandatory that each child should have a space of 3.3 square meters, and hence many children should not be cramped into a single room. Fire safety equipments as extinguishers, hoses and alarm systems must be functional and valid,” Lt Sulaiti said. Currently Qatar has about 149 private and public day nurseries and kindergartens, according to National Development Strategy report.
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