In a media statement, the Group said a meeting has been sought with the authorities to resolve the issues, "many of which threaten reopening and sustainable operations according to the Group".
“Parents and nurseries are happy with the reopening news announced by the authorities. However, the reopening guidelines to be followed cannot be met by most nursery operators. We hope to resolve this with a dialogue,” Lama Chivi, CEO Babilou Group Middle East & India, which operates 13 nurseries, said in the statement.
With UAE nurseries closed since March 1, nurseries have had no revenue or financial relief for more than six months.
The reopening guidelines state that more than two cases of coronavirus detected at a nursery would result in its permanent closure. According to the Group, no other business faces this threat of permanent closure on detection of cases.
“Even before Covid-19, nurseries had strict hygiene protocols, qualified staff and age-appropriate staff-student ratios. It’s certainly important to review and tighten the protocols in the light of the current situation, but not to create barriers that make operations near impossible,” said Katrina Mankani, Managing Director, Jumeirah International Nursery, which has four nurseries.
Nurseries have also been asked to pay for coronavirus testing of all staff every two weeks, unlike schools where staff testing was supported by the authorities. The nursery operators contend that nurseries have now been closed for over six months and should not be expected to shoulder this additional cost in the absence of any financial relief and uncertain cash flow, given that an October reopening is not guaranteed.
“The reopening guidelines require further discussion, as the restrictions in terms of space, capacity, ratios, nurse requirements etc are punitive. There is still no financial support to the sector. With student enrolments already migrating to schools that are now open, nurseries are now being asked to operate with a restricted model. We request the authorities to engage urgently so the sector can reopen in a sustainable manner,” said Umair Tariq, CEO, Middle East & Africa, Kido Nursery, which has three branches in the UAE.
Mahnaz Vatanparvar, Managing Director, The Little Dreamers Nursery, said: “Nurseries provide a remarkable foundation for children’s education and development. For us to remain viable, we seek governmental support for a smooth reopening, just like other businesses in UAE. Otherwise, the whole nursery sector may suffer irreparable damage.”
“Nurseries are an essential service in the UAE, as they nurture young children, ensuring their holistic development, while helping parents balance work and family. Reopening nurseries in a safe, hygienic way will not only support families, but also boost national agendas of happiness and residents’ welfare,” Poonam Bhojani, CEO of Innoventures Education, which operates Raffles Starters and Raffles Nurseries, said in the Group's media statement.