Dubai: Electro-magnetic radiation and children don't mix. It's basic chemistry.
Yet that's what staff and parents are battling against at Star International School, Umm Sheif.
Michael Henry, the school's principal, is at his wit's end on how to deal with a mobile phone mast that etisalat has put up inches away from their premises.
From a strongly-worded letter to etisalat, to a petition signed by parents, Henry's doing his best to have his school free of any potential radiation.
In a petition to etisalat, Henry wrote, "I must presume that the installation of the mast has been in your planning pipeline for some time. Yet, there was no communication with the school informing us of the pending project. Is this the standard of common courtesy that you extend to the community you claim to serve?" adding that etisalat should be "well aware that the location of mobile phone masts are extremely controversial" and that "given the potential harmfulness to the fast developing brains of young children, they [the masts] are usually located well away from schools".
Too close for comfort
Ironic then that etisalat erected the mast right next to the school's foundation block housing the youngest pupils, ie the three- to five-year-olds. "The telecommunications authority says the amount of radiation is within the legal amounts allowed," says Henry. "However, we're dealing with children here, and we need to take every precaution possible."
Upon repeated requests to etisalat and Dubai Municipality, Henry was informed that the municipality will only support the removal of the mobile phone mast if the school pays for it, or if the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) or the Ministry of Health supplies evidence on the dangers of the mast near a school.
Parents whose children study here, are worried about the health hazards to their children. Around 70 have petitioned etisalat to remove the mast.
Star International School, Umm Sheif, which in its first two yeas of operation has already received a "good" rating from KHDA, is appalled at the way etisalat has kept them in the dark.
"Why was there no right of objection to the placement of the mast? Why was it built in our absence (while the school was closed for a two-week winter break)? Why were we never informed or given a choice in the matter?" Henry asks.
No comment was available from etisalat.