RIYADH: GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN
Published — Sunday 5 May 2013
Last update 12 May 2013 7:23 am
Female education supervisors will carry out inspections of private and international girls’ school buildings to ensure their safety, according to a directive from the Ministry of Education.
Supervisors will ensure that inspections are conducted in construction and electric fittings, and that there is availability of security and safety tools and management.
The move will prevent major accidents including fires caused in schools because of the poor safety and security record.
The directive comes in the wake of several incidents involving fires that have left women dead or injured. One case involved Jeddah’s Baraim Al-Watan Girls’ School in which three teachers died and several other teachers and students were injured in the November 2011 blaze. Emergency exits were either blocked or improperly marked.
This exercise is part of the ministry’s move to make sure the schools comply with all safety and security regulations before they start operations in the next academic year.
The ministry, which does not employ engineers or technical personnel, urged the school owners and governing boards to take care of safety and security aspect, said Awatef bin Fahd Al-Harthi, director general of private and international education at the ministry.
Al-Harthi, who issued a circular to regional education departments, said supervisors will visit the schools and fill out an evaluation form that has to be approved by the department.
The form requires supervisors to ensure the safety of the school building’s “construction” and “architecture.” There are provisions in the forms to mention irregularities and to furnish reports about cracks in the walls or water leaks and completion of maintenance works in the school building.
The form also requires the supervisor to ensure the availability and operating status of fire extinguishers, the availability of standard-meeting emergency exits, first-aid kit and medications (small pharmacy), the quality of electrical fittings and the availability of an early-warning system. Al-Harthi’s directives stipulated the evaluation form has to be signed by the supervisor and the school principal prior to the signature of education department’s director.
“This is a commendable step of the ministry,” said Ibrahim Al-Qayid, an educator and member of the National Society for Human Rights. He urged all school managements to check on the school buildings and to monitor air quality, fire code compliance, policies on chemicals and hazardous waste, as well as pest control and chemical spraying of school grounds.
Schools must adopt emergency safety plans, said Al-Qayid, adding that “there must be adequate emergency exits, safety equipment and wide windows in school buildings.”