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Onus on schools to report abuse cases

Asma Ali Zain / 6 October 2011

School staff will be required to monitor and report signs of abuse in children to the authorities concerned as per the new protocol introduced for schools by DHA.

DUBAI - School staff will be required to monitor and report signs of abuse in children to the authorities concerned as per the new protocol introduced for schools by the Dubai Health Authority.

The Child Protection Protocol is part of the authority’s efforts to overhaul the health system in schools according to the Dubai government’s strategic plans.

Each suspected case will be assessed on a different level and resolved as per the decision of a group of appointed school staff consisting of teachers, school nurses and counsellors.

The protocol is a new addition to the updated version of the School Health Guidelines Manual that all private schools in Dubai are now required to follow. The manual is a detailed guidebook that offers step-by-step procedures of handling health issues within a school environment. Officials said a few cases of abuse had been reported by schools over the past years. “Presence of such rules in the school environment is important because the school is the next important place for a child after his home,” said Dr Hamid Yahya Hussain, Head of Schools and Educational Institutes Services Unit, Primary Health Care, the DHA.

The school management will select members of the group who will resolve issues on a case to case basis. A Child Protection Officer/Designated Teachers will be selected from within the school who may liaise with the social services team, family or the police, if required.

The group will be required to look out for signs such as neglect, physical and sexual abuse, emotional ill-treatment and potential abuse. “Some cases can be handled at the school level; the others resolved within the family and even with the authority if required,” said Dr Hussain who headed the scientific team that updated the manual to fit Dubai’s multicultural society.

“And if it is a very complicated case, then the police can be involved as well,” he said.

Dr Ramadan Ibrahim, Director of the Health Regulation Department, said the guidelines are based on international benchmarks. “Our aim is to raise the health standards for the community,” he said.

“We want all schools to have the same standards clinic-wise,” he said, adding that more training is still needed for school staff.

According to the protocol, class teachers, in most cases, will be the first persons who can raise concern and take it to the designated child protection staff. The school nurse will ensure that the relevant information is obtained and communicated to the designated teacher after the types of injuries, attendance and frequency are recorded.

The entire school staff have also been assigned the responsibility of identifying and reporting suspected abuse, as well as providing a safe and caring environment for students.

Earlier this year, the Dubai Police had set up a helpline to report child abuse. The police, however, add that parents do not report abuse due to the stigma attached. A much hyped case recently was the alleged molestation of a four-year-old on a school bus in which the three accused were acquitted. School management said it was the first such alleged incident of its kind.

Many cases of child abuse at homes have been reported in the media. It is hoped that the implementation of the new protocol will help schools detect such cases.


Signs to watch for

  • The protocol asks staff to be concerned if a pupil:
  • Has any injury which is not typical of the bumps and scrapes normally associated with children’s activities
  • Regularly has unexplained injuries
  • Frequently has injuries even when apparently reasonable explanations are given
  • Offers confused or conflicting explanations about how injuries are sustained
  • Exhibits significant changes in behaviour, performance or attitude
  • Indulges in sexual behaviour which is unusually explicit and/or inappropriate to his or her age
  • Discloses an experience in which he or she may have been significantly harmed



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