DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - A court in Sharjah on Thursday commenced proceedings against an Australian international school and six staff members over the death of a four-year old local boy two months ago.
The boy, a UAE national, was drowned in a swimming pool at the Australian International School in in Muweileh, in Sharjah in November. Sharjah is one of seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates, and adjoins Dubai. It is the only emirate that operates strictly in accordance with Sharia law.
The school was established in the emirate in 2005.
The tragic death of the boy occurred in November following a class swimming lesson.
After the children assembled in the changing rooms at the end of the lesson around 10:00am, the boy left the room and made his way back to the pool.
He was found facedown in the pool minutes later by a teacher who screamed. Other staff including the swimming instructor rushed to the pool. The instructor took the boy to the school medical clinic where an ambulance was called for. The boy was unabled to be revived and at Al Qasimi Hospital he was pronounced dead at 11:00am.
A little over a fortnight after the tragedy, local media reported the school paid blood money of AED 200,000 ($55,000) to the family of the boy. The boy had three siblings also attending the school. The boy's father Abdullah Saeed Al Kitbi, prior to the payment of the blood money, vowed that he would take legal action against the school.
The school's owner, the swimming instructor, 36, his assistant, 44, an Australian class teacher, 26, a Filipino shadow teacher, 37, and a Filipino bus attendant, 43, appeared in court on Thursday charged with gross negigence which prosecutors say lead to the boy's death.
All six of those charged entered not guilty pleas.
Judge Hussain Al Assoufy at the Sharjah Court of Misdemeanours heard that the prosecution has charged that the school did not have appropriate measures to prevent such an event, saying there should have been a barrier or a lifeguard on duty.
The proceedings were adjourned to 6 April 2019.