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Picture for illustrative purposes Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sharjah: Swimming pool safety and chemical use are just some of the subjects covered in the second phase of the Sharjah Safe Schools initiative, which was launched by the Safety and Preventative Authority in cooperation with Sharjah Civil Defence and Sharjah Education Council on Wednesday.

The development follows the case of a four-year-old Emirati boy who drowned in the pool at Sharjah’s Australian International School in November 2018, and the hospitalisation of 23 students and teachers who had been exposed to pesticides at Beaconhouse Al Khaleej International School last month.

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Australian International School Sharjah Image Credit: Aghaddir Ali, Senior Reporter

In the drowning case, two teachers were convicted of negligence and ordered to pay Dh30,000 each in blood money, while Australian International School was ordered to pay Dh140,000 in blood money for negligence and failing to take the necessary protective measures in and around its swimming pool.

In the pesticide case, three people have been referred to public prosecution including two school staff and a pest control company employee. At the centre of that case will be the fact that pesticides were used on a week night and not a weekend, exposing the students and staff to unnecessary risk the next day.

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Beaconhouse Al Khaleej International Image Credit: Aghaddir Ali, Senior Reporter

Shaikh Saif Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Director of the Prevention and Safety Authority attended Wednesday’s press conference at the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) to launch the second phase of the Sharjah Safe Schools Initiative. Also in attendance were Civil Defence officers, Ali Al Housani, Director of Sharjah Special Education Authority, plus several school principals and education experts.

The initiative includes 116 schools under the responsibility of the Sharjah Special Education Authority, to provide three training initiatives, first targeting the staff of the Sharjah Education council, second safety officers and officials in schools, and third: awareness of students in all schools.

Lamia Al Nouman, Director of Support Services at the Prevention and Safety Authority, said, “This initiative seeks to continuously improve the educational environment, which ensures the safety of pupils [our children], as they spend nearly a third of their day on the campus, which calls for securing this environment, and all its facilities, and work to raise awareness of pupils and administrative and teaching staff, and staff in order to act effectively according to pre-planned plans in different emergencies, the Prevention and Safety Authority is responsible to our pupils,” she added.

Training on emergencies situations that might occur in the school has now covered up to 41 schools since the beginning of the year where a total of 4,710 received training including 4,182 pupils and 528 school administrators.

By the end of 2020 all 116 private schools in Sharjah will be covered by the initiative.

Around 69 per cent of the schools have already installed smoke detectors, while 31 per cent remain without them.

In recent times, as well as drowning incidents and pesticide poisoning cases, pupils have also been left in or hit by their school bus. All of these incidents were addressed in the meeting, with solutions to counter issues, such as pool fences, nurses on hand to monitor chemicals used, safety staff employed to manage risks, and speed limits and signage installed around schools.