Nearly 15,000 school pupils treated in hospital for injuries

Almost 15,000 injuries suffered in private schools in Dubai last academic year were so serious they needed hospital treatment, new figures showed.

Almost 15,000 injuries suffered in private schools in Dubai last academic year were so serious they needed hospital treatment, new figures showed. According to the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) figures, there were 149,288 injuries in private schools during the 2008/2009 year and 10 per cent of these needed emergency treatment, including surgery.

"The number of children being injured is very high," said Dr Hamid Hussain, the supervisor of the school health community programme at the DHA. "The number of injuries is 88 per cent of the pupil total in Dubai. This means almost every child could have been injured and some were so serious they had to go to hospital." Common, less serious injuries included, cuts, bruises and sprains. The majority of the children affected were boys younger than 10.

The figures were revealed yesterday, the final day of the Arab Children's Health Congress. Officials said the main cause of injuries was a lack of adequate supervision in schools, and teachers needed to pay more attention to the physical and mental well-being of their pupils. "These are preventable and should not be happening," Dr Hussain said. The survey included every child in private schools in the emirate.

Some of the injuries were sport-related, but the majority were not. Bullying was also common, but often went under-reported because schools did not have good enough surveillance systems or direct reporting systems for pupils. "Schools should allocate dedicated staff to supervise pupils but also teachers who pupils can speak to if there are problems," Dr Hussain said. "We need better counselling in schools, this is very important. We know abuse is not spoken about in general but children should have someone to talk to."

During the three-day congress, child abuse, road traffic injuries and the psychological impact of child injuries were identified as key priority areas for the region. The World Health Organisation (WHO), Unicef and other regional organisations stressed the need for a national database for injuries suffered at schools. The congress showed there was "a lot of room for improvement" in protecting children's health in schools, said Dr Haifa Madi, the director of health protection and promotion at the WHO's Eastern Mediterranean office.

"We need to educate our teachers about their duty to protect children, but at the same time try to teach children how to take better care of themselves, and this involves behaving well to their classmates," she said. Referring to the WHO's World Report on Child Injury Prevention, Dr Madi said there was a need to introduce needs measures to reduce the impact of injuries. Legislation governing playground equipment and fenced swimming pools, as well creating safer routes to school and safer play areas, are all recommended.

@Email:munderwood@thenational.ae With additional reporting by Hala Khalaf

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