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27-03-2012 - Gulfnews/By Habib Toumi

Bahrain education minister faces grilling over foot-kissing incident

MPs in Bahrain have warned that they would grill the education minister if the ministry fails to take stringent punitive action against the teacher who reportedly forced a five-year-old student to kiss her foot for five months.

Emotion was high at the lower chamber on Tuesday as lawmakers took turns to blast the teacher for her alleged sect-driven attitude towards the young student.

According to an MP who said that he visited the private school and talked with its principal, the administration is recruiting a legal consultant to investigate the incident and take the appropriate action. However, there were calls to ensure that the issue does not slide further into sectarianism.

"We must be careful not to target a whole sect because of the alleged action of one its members," MP Jawad Abdullah said His call was promptly supported by Shaikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Khalifa, the justice minister. "There are investigations going on and they should be respected," Shaikh Khalid said.

"We must also respect the findings of the probes. No one should protect those who abused people and people with information should come forth. However, as the investigations are going on, we must avoid all forms of overgeneralization and tensions. We have to be patient and wait for the findings," he said.

Abdul Aziz Al Fadhel, the parliament affairs minister, added that the education ministry was looking into the case and that abuses of children would not be condoned. Social networks were loaded with comments on the alleged abuse case, but the overtones were often sectarian.

The school, in central Bahrain, initially said that it suspended the teacher for one week and shifted the student to another class. However, the ministry said that the measures were not based on a serious investigation of the incident. It gave the school a final warning and ordered it to conduct a new probe and to submit a report.

The student's father said that he learned by chance from his son that he had been kissing the teacher's foot for five months as a matter of respect and that he contacted the school administration to seek answers.


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