Inquiry uncovers neglect in Bahrain's nurseries
Manama, April 10, 2014
A culture of neglect has allegedly been uncovered in Bahrain's nurseries by a parliamentary inquiry.
An investigation committee has blamed a lack of supervision by the Social Development Ministry for violations in some of the country's 53 nurseries - including physical and psychological abuse and poor hygiene, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
It found only three people are employed in the ministry's nursery inspection section, two of whom are trainees, and instead of being visited six times a year nurseries are monitored just once every 12 months.
MPs who conducted the probe have come up with 10 recommendations that will be discussed in parliament on Tuesday.
They include increasing the size of the nursery inspection team, requiring nursery staff to pass specialised courses and installing surveillance cameras at all facilities except toilets.
The probe committee, which announced its findings yesterday, is also recommending an investigation of Social Development Minister Dr Fatima Al Balooshi and other senior officials.
Parliament launched the inquiry after horrific abuse was exposed at a nursery where children were tied to chairs, were not allowed to drink water and came home with bruises last November.
"The Social Development Ministry has not provided us with cases of abuse at nurseries for children aged between one day and four years from 2009 until 2012," probe committee head MP Dr Jamal Saleh told a Press conference yesterday at the National Assembly Complex, in Gudaibiya.
"All that was given to us were actions after the Hidd incident, which happened in November."
He said the investigation committee was not allowed to conduct site visits, but from the ministry's own documentation had determined there was a serious lack of nursery supervision.
"There are several violations which have been uncovered including physical and psychological abuse, besides several administrative shortfalls and a lack of proper facilities and hygiene," said Dr Saleh.
"We have no right as MPs to visit nurseries because they are private institutions, but from the ministry's documents and meetings with Dr Al Balooshi we have found the main reason to be organisational in the lack of monitoring, supervision and disciplinary action."
He said 22 cases of abuse had been registered at the Child Protection Centre during the investigation period, 19 of which are from the Hidd nursery, whose owner was last month jailed for two years by the Lower Criminal Court.
The woman's co-defendant, an Indonesian cleaner, was jailed for three months.
Probe committee vice-chairwoman MP Sawsan Taqawi said Dr Al Balooshi claimed the ministry lacked powers to revoke nursery licences, but argued that was simply not the case.
"There is the Child Protection Law and its executive bylaws introduced in 2012 and a Cabinet decree issued in 1999 putting nurseries under the ministry's responsibility, so there are no excuses for not taking action," she said.
"Now we have 22 cases (of abuse) and there could be more if families come forward, but it should have been the ministry that stopped the situation from escalating in the first place."
Probe committee secretary Dr Somaya Al Jowder said child abuse could ruin the lives of victims.
"The child victims seek revenge inside or outside their nursery, can grow up to be violent and could become criminals because from an early age they have been abused without intervention," she said.
The GDN earlier reported that 30 families lodged complaints alleging staff at the Hidd nursery assaulted their children.
One mother, whose 19-month-old son attended the nursery, claimed his genitals were pinched and he was beaten repeatedly.
Another mother handed the judge a picture of her son, which showed bruising on his leg. - TradeArabia News Service