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Helper arrested in Saudi Arabia over toddler’s killing

Tragedy reignites debate about helper/nanny qualifications

Gulf News

Manama: The arrest by Saudi police of an Asian domestic helper for reportedly killing an 18-month-old toddler’s has reignited the debate in the kingdom about leaving toddlers and babies in the care of “unqualified foreigners”.

A spokesman for the police in the Makkah region said that policemen in the Red Sea city of Jeddah were told by the emergency department at a local hospital that they received a baby in a critical condition, suffering from internal bleeding, and that he later died.

An investigation was launched and the medical staff confirmed that the boy had been subjected to aggression.

The helper was arrested and referred to the public prosecution for further investigation, Saudi news site Al Marsad reported.

“We share the grief of the family and we pray God to grant them fortitude,” one commentator said. “The topic of domestic helpers is quite long, but one important premise in the dialogue is that helpers are not educators with degrees or diplomas. They cannot be assigned tasks for which they have received no training and that is the root cause of the problem.”

Another commentator called for true solutions to the problems.

“Despite the various crimes that have been committed, families continue to hire foreign helpers,” he said. “It is about time we found genuine and lasting solutions in order to put an end to the dramas afflicting families.”

In his comments, another Saudi said the problem needed to be addressed in depth.

“Every time there is a tragic event involving helpers, we see an emotional outpouring of grief and anger on social media, but people do not really do anything about it,” he said. “At times, the victim is the helper and at others, it is a baby or a child. Studies should be conducted, recommendations made and measures taken. It is not easy, but it can be done. We have to make sure reason, not emotion, dictates our behaviour.”

In 2012, the killing of a four-year-old daughter of a teacher prompted women teachers in Saudi Arabia to launch a campaign calling for nurseries to be opened in all schools amid concerns about the safety of children left at home with domestic helpers.

Tala was alone at home in the Red Sea city of Yanubu when the Indonesian helper who had been employed by the family for seven years and had often drawn praise from neighbours and relatives severed the girl’s head in the parents’ bedroom in an act of rage.

“We clearly tell all officials and particularly the minister of education that the terrible tragedy which struck a woman teacher will not be the last if no official action is taken,” the teachers said in a statement issued during the campaign. “We urge the opening of nurseries or kindergartens and the appointment of caretakers who will be in charge of them. These are basic rights of teachers who leave their homes every day to look after the daughters of their nation and leave their children in the custody of domestic helpers.”

Social networks and microblogs helped spread the message across the country.

“The killing of Tala, the latest in similar tragedies, has compounded the concerns and worries of women teachers who leave their children with domestic helpers,” Fawzia Al Dubais, a teacher, said. “I have decided never to leave my two children with the helper when I go to work and I now take them to stay with my mother until I come back from school.”

Fawzia said that she had observed that the family’s helper treated her two children nicely.

“However, I do not know what she may do when I leave her without any supervision for seven straight hours. I consider myself fortunate that my mother welcomes my children daily because many of my colleagues are not so fortunate and do not have anyone with whom they can leave their children while they are at work,” she said.