A noble sense of responsibility

 14 Dec 2016 - 19:24

A noble sense of responsibility

By Irfan Bukhari / The Peninsula

They say a good heart is better than all the heads in the world. When parents and teachers from Pearling Season International (PSI) School decided to run a campaign, a common good of all good initiatives - serving the humanity - was at the bottom of their hearts and at the top of their minds.

“Wearing seat belts saves lives,” is the attitude being instilled into school students and their parents as well.  “The Seat Belt Safety Campaign is being organised by the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of PSI School - a group of parents and teachers that meet on a bi-weekly basis to bring together ideas, thoughts and concerns; and work towards enhancing the student experience,” says Hershey Ansay, an Australian expat who represents both teachers and parents and is co-leading the campaign.

She said that the campaign will continue in January and February. Meanwhile this month they have designed in-class talks to create an awareness on the importance of fastening seat belts. “Our first focus remains on children.”  

A challenge for all: The fatalities and injuries in road traffic accidents have been an issue of great concern for all and the concerned authorities under Qatar National Vision 2030 are taking all necessary steps to address the problem on permanent basis.

A study conducted last year notes: “Despite road traffic crashes being one of the leading causes of death in Qatar, three out of 10 drivers in Doha, Qatar, do not use a seat belt and about one in 12 use a mobile phone while driving. More efforts, in the form of awareness campaigns and increased law enforcement, are needed to improve compliance with laws requiring seat belt use and prohibiting mobile phone use while driving.”

Sam Ewing once said: “Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all.” In this case, though it cannot be classified as hard work but presenting shoulders to bear the burden of responsibility is nothing but a really laudable action.

PSI School has designed a number of attractive and engaging activities to educate children on the importance of seat belt use including age-appropriate poster, video and slogan contests. “These children then spread this message in the community by talking to their parents, relatives, friends and neighbours,” says Ansay.

The Parent-Teacher Association is not just relying on verbal communication to teach the importance of wearing seat belts to students; they are giving them life-like experiences through the use of simulators.

The day The Peninsula visited the school, younger students were being given demonstrations with a dummy on two simulators: a roll over simulator and a seat belt convincer; while older students physically experienced them.

“It is a kind of life-changing experience for kids and they are getting a life-lesson,” said Ansay. She thinks and believes with confidence that small efforts ultimately bring great results if made with perseverance and commitment.

“We have long since realized that there is an incredible gap in the simple implementation of the seat belt rule in Qatar, and children are one of the most vulnerable groups prone to death due to such lack in care.”

Helping hands: A number of national organizations are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with PSI School to make its campaign result-oriented. “We have names like Weill-Cornell Medical College, Hamad Trauma Center and Karwa Driving School involved in our wonderful campaign, all interspersed by the efforts of our wonderful teachers in holding in-class activities and playing awareness videos throughout the campaign months,” said Ansay. She said that the school had agreed to support the PTA's campaign after observing that students would avoid fastening seat belts.

The school has also designed stickers and bumper stickers to spread the message. “We will distribute them among children, parents and community once we get permission from concerned quarters,” said Ansay, further saying that they would love to spread the word of their efforts to inspire other schools in the region to take up the cause in a lasting, culturally embedding way.

The school has also designed a Seat Belt Police exercise where teams of older students would perform duties of traffic police and would dummy-fine parents not properly strapping in their children. The PTA has some other ideas to execute like a poster competition for the younger years and a video competition for the older students with amazing prizes; age-appropriate and quite fun information packs for all students and parents; and an incredible Safety Awareness Night with a 'Stories from the Trauma Room' feature conducted by a senior trauma surgeon from Hamad Trauma Center.

Pauline Keogh is a teacher at PSI School who not only teaches business, but also has taken the role of helping organise the high school students' road safety activities. “When I came to Qatar I was shocked to see the low level of seat belt wearing. It’s a dangerous practice,” she said.

Terming the oblivious attitude ‘highly risky’, she said that being an occupational first-aider, safety had always been her subject of interest. “Wearing seat belt saves lives”, was the lesson she was trying to inculcate in school kids. Her demonstration on seat belt had everything needed to make the campaign fruitful; motivation, encouragement, training and persuasion.

Embedded for good: Another parent, Sabika Shaban, has also volunteered her time for the cause to co-organize the campaign. She thinks that with the right tools, strategies and motivation, the importance of seat belt wearing can be embedded in the school culture.

Being a Pakistani-Canadian expat, she believes that this training is important on many grounds including the fact that most people in Qatar belong to various social backgrounds and cultures. “Non-practising expats come from countries where wearing seat belts or obeying traffic rules is not a subject of social concern; for others, it might simply be plain ignorance,” she noted. "We simply lack education of car-seating etiquette - and that is what this campaign is setting out to counter."

Sabika said that road safety-related information was also being shared with the parents of school children. “It's a two-way stream: teach children to reach parents; and educate parents to re-enforce their children's learned behaviour. Parents must understand that without a simple seat belt, they are placing their child in a potential death-trap."  

One can argue with anything except stats: Citing stats, Sabika says that the risk of injury or casualty multiplies when someone neglects using seat belts in the back seats. “The passengers without seat belts turn into missiles in case of car collisions for the driver and passenger sitting on the front seats,” she said. "Through the use of an unbelted dummy in the roll over simulator while the student was belted, students realized that even if they were belted themselves, the unbelted passenger would pose a death threat for them in a collision.”

When The Peninsula interacted with the students, they were more than excited over their experiences in the simulators. “Earlier we were not aware of the extent of the dangers associated with non-fastening of seat belts. It has really made a strong impression on us. We will for sure pass on the message of the importance of using seat belts to friends and family,” they said.

Acting well their part: In Alexander Pope’s words, “Honour and shame from no condition rise. Act well your part: There all the honour lies.” The members of the Parent-Teacher Association at PSI School are acting well their part and inviting others with their deed to come forward to educate people from untimely deaths. As they have all repeated in one way or another, "Even one life saved or one attitude changed by our message will ensure that we have had a successful campaign."