Nursery schools are directly responsible for the safety, comfort and security of the children under their care, stipulates a new law issued by HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani yesterday.
The law defines nursery schools as a place designated for the care of children below four years of age. These include the nurseries run by public or private schools.
According to Law No 1 of 2014, work at nurseries is strictly limited to women. Nurseries should be managed by a qualified female director, who will be responsible for all work at the place. She will be aided by a female general supervisor, a female assistant supervisor, a dietician, a nurse, and a female physician, who can be a visiting specialist in paediatrics or general medicine.
In addition, there should be adequate number of guards, cleaners, drivers and other necessary staff. Visiting doctors, as well as other employees who do not come into direct contact with the children, may be a men.
The law will take effect from its date of publication in the official gazette.
All nursery staff should be physically fit, free of any communicable disease, enjoy a good reputation with no criminal history and possess adequate qualification and expertise.
Nurseries should also keep regular and updated records.
According to the new law, a prior licence has to be obtained from the department concerned at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to establish, manage or modify an existing nursery.
To obtain a licence, an applicant should be at least 21 years old, have a good reputation and never convicted in a criminal case. The applicant has to make a deposit of QR100,000 with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. This amount will remain with the ministry and it will be refunded, after deducting any sums due, only when the licensee wishes to end all the activities of the nursery concerned.
The licensee should form the by-laws of the nursery within 30 days of being issued the licence. These should include information about the fees, administration, conditions for children’s registration and the care and programmes provided by the centre.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will classify nurseries based on the qualifications of its staff and the fees. Each nursery should adopt a distinctive name which should be approved by the ministry.
The licences, granted for one year and renewed on an annual basis, cannot be transferred to another person without the prior approval.
Functioning of nurseries falls under the control and supervision of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and ministry staff, authorised by the attorney general in agreement with the minister, have the judicial right to inspect such centres and book violators.
First-time violators will be issued a warning but in case the violation is repeated, a fine of QR10,000 will be deducted from the QR100,000 deposit. If the violation persists, the minister may cancel the nursery’s licence, put it under a temporary management, close it down for a maximum of three months or downgrade its classification. All these steps will be taken keeping in mind the interests of the children.
Any person who establishes, manages, transfers or modifies a nursery without prior authorisation is punishable by a maximum two years in jail and a fine not exceeding QR100,000 or any such penalty. Submitting false information or using the place for other than its designated purpose entails the same penalties.
Nurseries are expected to provide comprehensive care to children and provide them with the appropriate conditions to develop their skills in all fields.
Nurseries already functioning are given a six-month grace period to meet the stipulations of the new law. This could be extended for a similar period by a decision of the minister.
There has been a persistent demand for a law that would strictly regulate nurseries in the country, following the Villaggio Mall nursery fire that claimed 19 lives, including 13 children, in May 2012.