Anjum Hasan Image Credit: Gulf News Archives


The right to play is the birthright of every child according to the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights. It is considered to be absolutely necessary for the optimal development of a young person.

And this does not just apply to children in conflict zones, in poverty or those facing challenging circumstances. This holds true for even those who live in a place of peace and have abundant resources at their disposal.

And the primary reason for this is the highly pressured fast-paced urban lives that children live. Do they finish their homework, tuitions, extracurricular activities and projects or take time out to go to the park for a game of football? Well, the former wins and children are left with little or no play time. So, they opt for quick games closer to home but in spaces not designed for it, which could have other injurious results.

Or in some cases, there are no adequate play areas available. Either way, children fail to have the opportunity to develop their potential through play.

As per a paper on pediatrics.aappublications.org by Kenneth R. Ginsburg: “Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development....

“Play is a cherished part of childhood that offers children important developmental benefits and parents the opportunity to fully engage with their children. However, multiple forces are interacting to effectively reduce many children’s ability to reap the benefits of play. As we strive to create the optimal developmental milieu for children, it remains imperative that play be included along with academic and social-enrichment opportunities and that safe environments be made available to all children.”

Our first place winner for the month of April focused on children playing football on a busy main road of the Sharjah Industrial Area. Razeen Ashique’s report, “Children’s safety at risk as they play on the road”, was published on April 3. The accompanying photograph illustrated the seriousness of the matter. But, where do the children go to play? Do they have open, safe spaces in the area? If not, what choice is there many would ask? Fair enough, but playing along the main road is not the solution. It is a conundrum. Would any of our readers have a suggestion or a solution? Share it on readers@gulfnews.com. We will publish the best ideas.

Second place goes to Anjum Hasan for the report, “Doing our bit for the environment”, published on April 6. It looked at an item that everybody wastes but don’t give much thought to - cooking oil. Hasan spearheaded a drive to recycle used oil, rather than it just getting flushed down drains and polluting natural water bodies. An excellent effort that could do with more people taking up the initiative.

Third place winner is Mustansar Ahmad for his April 19 report, “No bus shelters in International City”. Summer is upon us, so this is an extremely urgent matter. The Roads and Transport Authority responded to the article in affirmative to state that “such areas will be provided with shelters within a short period”.


FIRST: Razeen Ashique

Published on April 3, 2017

Razeen Ashique, a Sharjah resident, wrote about the issue of children playing on the pavement along the main road in her area. One of the boys kicked the ball, which then rolled onto the road. Instead of being careful, one of his friends quickly ran across the road to grab it.

Ashique said: “Community reports are a great platform to express our views on what is happening around us. This helps us to create awareness amongst people and improve our environment. As residents, it’s our responsibility to raise awareness about what is happening in our community.”

After his report was published, his teachers, friends and family members appreciated his efforts for writing about a topic that concerns all of them. “I also advised my neighbours not to play on the road and showed them my report. They agreed that they won’t be doing so,” he said.

Since the report was published, he hasn’t noticed anyone playing football on the road.

SECOND: Anjum Hasan

Published on April 6, 2017

Anjum Hasan, a teacher based in Sharjah, wrote about her initiative to collect and recycle used oil, instead of pouring it down the drain. After attending an event wherein they learnt about the harmful effects of dumping cooking oil, she decided to make a difference, even if it meant starting at a small scale.

She said: “It was because of the report published in Gulf News that schools from Dubai approached us and invited students and teachers involved in the campaign to visit their schools and talk to their students about it. Many people did not know that used cooking oil could be recycled. Many women on Facebook have expressed their guilt and ignorance of not knowing of such environmental hazards.”

The response, she says, was overwhelming. They approached the environmental company they have collaborated with to provide more recycling bins as the campaign will go on at a larger scale moving forward. “Many homemakers have shown interest in joining hands with us. They have requested me to visit their homes and demonstrate what needs to be done,” Hasan added.

THIRD: Mustansar Ahmad

Published on April 19, 2017

Mustansar Ahmad, a Dubai resident, raised awareness about bus stops in Dubai’s International City area not having proper shelters for the passengers to be able to wait inside comfortably. Through his report, he hoped to bring this issue to the attention of the relevant authorities and get a positive reaction for the sake of the hundreds of passengers who have to wait in the heat for their respective buses.

He said: “Community reports are a good platform to get our messages across to other people and to bring to the notice of the concerned department. Many people appreciated my efforts and are now hoping for some positive result.”

His concerns were raised with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), which confirmed that they had plans to expand the number of bus shelters around Dubai, including the area of concern.