190611 victoria
Last week’s inquest into her death revealed that 42-year-old Victoria Buchanan, who taught in a Dubai school, ingested a pouch of cocaine at Manchester Airport in March 2018 Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The case of a Dubai-based British teacher who died after ingesting a pouch of cocaine at Manchester Airport while waiting to board a flight back to the UAE, has left parents asking if background checks in schools are strong enough.

Victoria Buchanan, a 42-year-old mother of three from Kilmarnock in Scotland, ingested the resealable bag when she realised she still had it on her after checking in her luggage. Moments later, she collapsed with a severe seizure after the bag burst inside her stomach, according to last week’s inquest into her death last March 2018.

Buchanan’s husband Mark, a shipping company boss who was also based in Dubai, admitted during the inquest that the couple occasionally took small amounts of the class A drug. She still had £60 (Dh280) worth of the drug from a £200 bag bought together with her husband left over when she reached the airport in Manchester. Her husband had already travelled back to the UAE ahead of her. The inquest ruled death by misadventure.

If this is one case then there must be others, and it begs the question, in general, do schools here have a system in place to screen people who are coming in from all different parts of the world, not just for drugs but for anything?

- A parent at the Dubai school where Buchanan taught

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a parent at the Dubai school where Buchanan used to teach, told Gulf News: “This is really shocking, you would never have expected it.

“If this is one case then there must be others, and it begs the question, in general, do schools here have a system in place to screen people who are coming in from all different parts of the world, not just for drugs but for anything?

“We are different from other countries where employment comes from within the country and you can screen, but what are the methods for selecting people here and what screening do they go through?

“Maybe they are good enough, I don’t know, maybe this is a rare occurrence, but is there a standard or does it vary school to school?” added the Emirati parent.

Good conduct certificate

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) announced last September that teaching candidates must now produce a good conduct certificate from all the countries they had worked in over the past five years.

Individual schools already had background checks in place but the standardised five-year requirement across all schools was introduced to strengthen the recruitment process.

A local teaching recruiter said that background checks here in the UAE were getting a lot more stringent, even compared to UK standards, but added that no system was entirely foolproof.

“You’re never going to account for everything,” said the recruiter who requested not to be identified. “You can have a police and criminal record background check, and a background check from your former employer that states they see no reason why you shouldn’t work with children.

“But the people writing the references can only comment on what they are aware of. If someone has never been caught, and no one was aware, no one would ever put it down against that person.

“You do your due diligence and try your best but if that person does things in their non-professional life that never comes to light in their professional life then the referee is not aware of it. They can only comment on what they know and that’s when things like this come out in the wash, unfortunately it happens all over the world in all types of work.”

Gulf News contacted the school in Dubai where the teacher worked but they declined to comment.

What is cocaine?
An illegal stimulant mostly used as a recreational drug, commonly snorted, inhaled as smoke, or dissolved and injected into a vein. It comes from a naturally occurring substance found in the coca plant, which is mostlty grown in South America. Mental effects include loss of contact with reality, an intense feeling of happiness, or agitation. Physical symptoms include a fast heart rate, sweating, and large pupils. High doses can result in very high blood pressure or body temperature. Effects begin within seconds to minutes of use and last between five and ninety minutes. Ingesting large doses can be fatal.

Do you have a story to tell? A tip-off to give? A community issue that needs to be covered? Tell us at readers@gulfnews.com. Call us on 04 406 7666. Whatsapp us on 056 5245977. You can also message us on our Facebook page. We’re listening.