ABU DHABI // Abdul al Zaabi played the role of traffic engineer during his summer class at Future Model School yesterday. Using cardboard and markers, nine-year-old Abdul and his classmates, helped by Abdul's father, Naser, designed a road junction, complete with traffic signals and speed cameras, for toy cars to navigate.
"Cameras yes, everywhere," said Mr al Zaabi, 33, a quality controller for the Government, while his son continued to cut and paste. "I worry about him crossing the street. He wears his seatbelt and listens to anything I say to him. But the guys, like 17, 18, they are like fire. They drive their car and they don't obey the rules. This is the problem." Curbing bad driving habits at a young age is the aim of a road safety course that has been introduced onto the emirate's summer curriculum. Last week, a dozen teachers received training for the course, developed by the Dubai-based company Educating Global.
Yesterday, children dived into the first set of activities. They proved a hit with both the 22 pupils and four parents who had accompanied their children to school at the request of the teacher, Anees Mohammed. The course is being taught at 25 other schools this summer. The aim is to make it fun for children to learn about the importance of wearing seatbelts and holding the hand of an adult while walking on the pavement.
Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) officials have said they are considering making the lessons part of the regular curriculum. "I learnt lots," said Omar Khalil, 13, an Iraqi born in Abu Dhabi. "For example, if there are no lights for me to walk in, I have to make sure the street is empty of cars before I cross. "Also, I should not bother the driver. I do lots of bothering my father, kicking him, talking. You have to keep quiet when the driver is driving so he can concentrate."
According to Ministry of Interior figures, 963 motorists died in traffic accidents in the UAE last year, compared with 1,072 in 2008. Health officials say injuries were the leading cause of death among children under 14 in the emirate, 63 per cent of which occurred on the roads. Crashes in the emirate have fallen this year. Teachers hope the new course will see that trend continue. Having parents such as Mr al Zaabi in attendance sent the right message to students, said Robert Thompson, an education adviser to the director general of Adec.
"We are really pleased that the parents have got involved," he said. "As soon as the students see the parents in attendance, they know it's important." Adec also working with the road safety awareness campaign Salama and Yas Marina Circuit to reach 4,000 children aged 14 to 18 across the emirate over the next two weeks. email@example.com