Parents raise concerns after children at Abu Dhabi school fall ill

They claim infection was caused by poor hygiene at school but principal says it was probably because of pupils sharing food

Several pupils at Sunrise English Private School in Mohammed bin Zayed City fell ill in the last week of September. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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Parents at an Abu Dhabi private school have raised concerns after dozens of pupils fell ill in the last week of September.

They said about 70 children at Sunrise English Private School suffered from diarrhoea and vomiting.

Parents claimed that the infection was caused by poor hygiene at the school.

But the school authorities told The National that 45 children had been ill, possibly after sharing food or other items, and practising poor hand hygiene.

Inspectors sent by the emirate's regulator of private schools also found that the school took immediate measures to fully sanitise and disinfect all facilities.

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We acted immediately and visited the school to collect samples for necessary tests and inspect the health and safety measures at the school
Adek representative

Abu Dhabi’s Department of Education and Knowledge stepped in after receiving complaints.

“A number of health-related incidents among pupils were identified by health authorities and reported to Adek,” a representative said.

“Response teams from Adek and relevant authorities acted immediately and visited the school to collect samples for necessary tests and inspect the health and safety measures applied at the school.”

Adek said the inspectors found that the school had shown a high level of preparedness and took immediate measures.

Thakur Mulchandani, the principal, said the children who were sick had flu symptoms, fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

He said the school handled the situation with the help of Adek and the health authorities.

Mr Mulchandani said he asked parents to ensure children maintained good hand hygiene and did not share food or personal belongings.

The school authorities said pupils were given bottled water after they turned off water coolers on September 28 and had the water tank cleaned by professionals on the same day.

“We took immediate measures to fully sanitise and disinfect all our facilities. We are still monitoring the situation closely and sanitising as a precautionary measure,” Mr Mulchandani said.

“We had around 45 pupils who were unwell and they did go to the hospitals for treatment.

“Hygiene was not the issue; maybe sharing of food could be the reason because these children were not drinking the school water.”

Mr Mulchandani did not clarify if the children stopped drinking water from the coolers before or after the first infection case was reported.

He said the school sent a water sample for a purity check and received a clear report.

Lubna Basheer, a parent, said her children, aged 9 and 7, had severe sickness.

“My son came back home on Tuesday [September 27] and complained of stomach pain and then started vomiting,” she said.

“We took him to the doctor because he was not able to keep any food down.”

She said her son had recovered from influenza A before getting the stomach bug.

Her daughter also developed the same symptoms two days later and had to be taken to the hospital.

“I've never seen something like this. I think it’s the hygiene at the school,” she said.

Ms Basheer said she tried speaking to the school.

She said the school brought in new water dispensers after the incident.

A mother who did not wish to be identified said her 10-year-old daughter had been sick.

“She kept vomiting and I got scared when she started looking pale,” she said.

“I took her to the doctor and they did her blood tests and found that she had a bad infection and she needed antibiotics.”

Updated: October 14, 2022, 7:10 AM
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