Sana Suboohi Image Credit:

Dubai

Schools are back, parents are back, roads are busy... many of our community reporters have returned from holiday. September was a flurry of activity, which was reflected in our community reports, especially as many of the articles were filed by young people.

Unattended shopping trolleys to blocked emergency exits, a gamut of issues was covered - each equally important, so judging the top three was a next to impossible task.

First place goes to the report, “Learing to say ‘no’ to bullying” by Yazan Zamel, published on September 17. The student from Abu Dhabi International School took a stand against cyber bullying. He was a victim and refused to accept it. Zamel decided to do something about it. He started a camapign, which included a play, posters and student surveys. His efforts created awareness, change and inspired many. A 15-year-old student at his sschool, Adeeba K., told him how the campaign helped her immensely. She said: “I was a victim of bullying, but now, I’m no longer alone.” That is social change.

Cyber bullying is tougher to deal with and its impact much more long term than schoolyard bullying - it’s there everytime a child logs onto a digitally connected device. Recent research, according to cyberbullying.org, says that “adolescent girls are just as likely, if not more likely than boys to experience cyberbullying. Traditional bullying and cyberbullying are closely related: those who are bullied at school are bullied online and those who bully at school bully online.” So, it is a vicious circle that impacts many young lives.

However, it is also equally important to help the bullies to break the cycle, because social scientists say that they indulge in this kind of anti-social activity as a result of issues related to “low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, anger, frustration, and a variety of other emotional and psychological problems”. At the end of the day many of them are misguided children, who desperately need help.

So, to take something negative that happens to you and transforming it into a positive effort, without any external drivers forcing you to do so, is truly a remarkable achievement, especially in a young person. We definitely do need many more young people like Zamel.

Second place goes to Sana Suboohi. A pupil based in Sharjah, she missed her school bus because the elevator in the building she lives in stopped working. She decided to take the stairs. Unfortunately, this was an attempt in futility. The emergency passage was blocked by discarded furniture. An extremely dangerous practice, especially in case of a fire - everybody would be trapped. We hope that her report, titled “Do not block emergency exits”, published on September 23, will raise awareness among people. If you see this happening around you, we urge you to alert the necessary authorities. Your timely action might be the only thing that saves lives if something were to happen. One can never be too safe.

Third place goes to Afzal A., a community reporter based in Sharjah, for his report, “Unfair practice by some motorists”. It was published on September 30. He wrote about people misusing the emergency lane and using it to cut across traffic lines. It is dangerous and unethical. A designated area to be used by emergency vehicles and only in case of a vehicular problem, the lane is not to be used as a point of access for people who cannot be bothered to wait in traffic despite hundreds of others patiently doing so.

I would like to thank all our reader reporters for their efforts and urge them to continue sending in reports and be the drivers of social change at a community level.

PROFILES:

First: Yazan Zamel

Published on September 17, 2015

Yazan Zamel, a student based in Abu Dhabi, raised concern over the issue of bullying at schools and decided to go a step further and start a campaign to raise awareness about it and help stop the menace.

He said: “I think that community reports are a good platform to get messages across to other people. In addition, nowadays, the majority of messages are spread in an old-fashioned technique, but Gulf News is the opposite. It offers online community reports, which are very creative and help spread the word internationally and not just locally. After my report was published, I received a few positive responses from my family members. For example, an uncle of mine, who works as a mechanical engineer in Qatar, found out about my campaign after reading the community report. He told me that what I was doing was extremely beneficial to society. I also received positive responses from my schoolmates.”

Zamel is the president of the environment club at his school and contributes to the Emirates Heritage Club and Environment Friends Society. He has always been interested in reading and writing and hopes to raise awareness about common community issues through his reports.

Second: Sana Suboohi

Published on September 23, 2015

Sana Suboohi, a pupil based in Sharjah, is concerned about residents blocking emergency exits in buildings and raised this issue through her report.

She said: “Community reports are definitely a good platform to get messages across to other people. They are an excellent means of spreading awareness amongst residents. A lot of people, including my neighbours, residents of my building and my schoolmates read the report, extended their support and appreciated the fact that I had raised this issue of concern to all of them.”

The reader is an active participant of the debate club at her school and participates in many art competitions. She also volunteers for the Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) and contributes to the collection of paper and plastic in their recycling programs.

Third: Afzal A.

Published on September 30, 2015

Afzal A., a Sharjah resident, is bothered by the reckless attitude of some motorists who use the emergency lane on highways to skip traffic queues during rush hour. He has come across this practice on a daily basis and thought of writing to the newspaper to raise awareness and also hoped that the authorities would take note and put an end to such behaviour.

He said: “These drivers think they are being brave when they drive on the hard shoulder, which is exclusively for emergency vehicles. But, rather than bravery, I think they are being foolish. I had hoped to raise awareness among drivers so they stop behaving like this.”