'I saw my classmates hit, but didn't think it serious'

A former public school pupil says he never discussed the practise with his parents, though he saw his classmates hit, and "would not take it seriously".

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DUBAI // Saeed Mohamed has seen inattentive classmates slapped, but it never bothered him.

"Yes, it would happen sometimes," said the student, who graduated last year from a public school. "When it did, we would not take it seriously. Sometimes the student would complain to the principal, but nothing more."

Mr Mohamed said he never thought it necessary to tell his parents. "My siblings are in school now and I have never heard them complain about this," he said.

Despite attempts by authorities to curb violence, incidents of students being beaten by teachers have been reported.

At the beginning of the academic year, teachers from two Indian schools in Abu Dhabi were taken to task for the use of physical punishment. Teachers in at least eight schools in Dubai were found guilty of physical and verbal abuse last year, according to the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau.

Although physical punishment is banned in state schools, guidelines are not defined for private schools. Authorities have said every school must have a policy that communicates corporal punishment as a serious disciplinary offence.

The Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) says principals are expected to talk with staff about the expectations of adults who work with pupils. Adec said teachers should keep their hands off students, even if provoked, and should deal with youngsters "in a kind, caring, respectful and safe manner".

To tackle issues related to child abuse in public schools, the Dubai Schools Agency devised programmes for teachers on behaviour management, said Fatma al Marri, the agency's chief executive. "In schools where violence and bullying were reported to be recurrent, we worked closely with senior staff and specifically tailored action plans to meet the needs of the school settings," she said. The schools were asked to redraft policy with an emphasis on compliance with ministerial decisions that prohibit corporal punishment or inappropriate behaviour. "We have to ensure children report abuse without fear of repercussions."