Muscat: Kindergarten schools in Oman will soon be required to install security cameras to ensure the welfare and safety of their little learners, the country’s Ministry of Social Development has announced.
The Child Protection Law, which stipulated the installation of these cameras, included a raft of other regulations launched by the ministry to ensure that children are provided with a nurturing and stable environment.
The list contains regulations related to child protection, child employment, kindergarten schools and foster care, which will protect children both physically and mentally. The new rules are expected to be implemented in six months’ time.
Kindergarten schools are normally open to children aged three-and-a-half and below.
Article 26 of the new law states: “The kindergarten must be equipped with security cameras in all facilities, and all records must be saved in such a way that they can be looked at whenever necessary.”
Kindergarten schools which do not adhere to this law within six months risk not having their permits renewed, as the Ministry reserves the right to withhold permits for non-compliant facilities and may even shut down kindergarten schools which break the rules twice in one year.
Commenting on this, a spokesman for the Ministry of Social Development said: “The Child Protection Law aims to make sure that children can be safe and have access to what they need to grow in a nurturing environment.
“It established rights, such as protection from harmful practices and that children should be able to go to kindergartens where they could be nurtured. Now that this list has come, it details what these rights are and how they will be implemented,” he said.
The safety of children is examined in this law on all levels, including the location of the kindergarten, stating : “Being in a quiet place, close to residential areas, in a healthy environment and away from the dangers of pollution, to have safe roads leading to it but not be directly next to the public highway.”
The new rules also require nurseries to have a room for games and activities appropriate for the age of the children, as well as a large enough number of rooms for administration purposes. It must also include separate rooms for eating, for healthcare visitors, and for children to take naps in. Beds for the children must also be appropriate for their ages.
Child Protection Law
Article 26 of the Child Protection Law added: “The sleeping rooms for children must be appropriate. Beds for children between 3 months and 1 year must have safety bars. Beds for children between one year old and 3.5 years old can have a spongy mattress at least 10cm thick, covered by a layer of cotton, and must have a mattress protector which does not allow in liquids and can be easily cleaned and sanitized.”
The nurseries must also have a kitchen with a stove, a refrigerator, and a sanitation device for baby bottles. Furthermore, there must be low level toilets and sinks for hand washing and air conditioning of a type that is safe for children to be around.
There are also restrictions on how many children can be taken care of by one person.
Article 50 reads: “The person permitted to operate the nursery must organise the employees in three groups: One carer for every four children who are between three months and a year old. A supervisor with a carer for every eight children who are between one and two years old, and a supervisor with a carer for every 12 children who are two years old or older.”
While most nurseries must be Omani owned and the law incentivises management by Omanis, there are exceptions made for expat societies in Oman, who can start nurseries for themselves in tandem with their social clubs.
Article 42 of the law reads: “Applications for permission to found a nursery for an expat population can be done through the social club of the group, sent to the proper authority along with a letter from the associated embassy agreeing that its people may start a nursery for their children in Oman.”
Nurseries not only provide childcare during working hours but should also nurture children.
Article 34 states the many ways kindergartens can foster and
develop healthy and happy children. These include protecting them from danger and reinforcing good behaviour as well as advising families and strengthening societal bonds.
A full programme of activities should be provided for the children, preparing them physically, psychologically and morally to become good citizens as well as encouraging creativity, training dexterity and teaching healthy habits, all in preparation for life in school and in society.
An official from a local nursery in Oman told Times of Oman, “We welcome this law because it ensures both the children’s safety and how they develop. At our nursery, we work to make sure that children are safe and happy and will surely comply with these regulations.”
Dr Nuhaila Al Rawahi, an educational psychologist in Oman said, "The focus on training is also a way of safe guarding these young children. It is very promising to hear that a holistic approach to safety is being taken. Also, it's these foundational stages and the quality of the interactions and play that are critical for children's development which will have a domino effect as they later go into school."