Researchers at the Microbiology Research Facility work with coronavirus samples as a trial begins to see whether malaria treatment hydroxychloroquine can prevent or reduce the severity of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. March 19, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

World Autism Day 2020

The thirteenth annual World Autism Awareness Day is observed on April 2, 2020. This year, the theme is “The Transition to Adulthood”.  Awareness, acceptance of diagnosis and receiving proper care at the right time can help ensure proper treatment of children with autism ("UAE student with autism makes balloon decorations to pay medical bills", Gulf News, January 26).

Children with autism often find it difficult to interact and communicate with others. They don't make eye contact and are intolerant to sound. Some have behavioral problems. Parents often find it difficult to take such children to public places as they often attract the attention of the people around them. Such children can excel in different fields like music, arts, math and more. They are often multitalented. Their talent should be identified at an early stage and encouraged. These children should be accommodated in regular schools to help bring them up as a part of the community.

Although there is no medicine to cure this condition, often children who have extreme behavioral issues are treated with medicines to calm them down. The actual cause of autism is still unknown as different research gives different explanations. Some say it could be a genetic disorder, and other research quotes more factors. As there is an alarming increase in the number of autistic cases, more research should be done in this direction and awareness should be created.

Some eminent people who had shown symptoms of autism are Albert Einstein, Mozart, Isaac Newton and Michelangelo. As you can see, these people have made a name for themselves and have excelled in their respective fields. This is encouraging for children who fall in the autistic spectrum. Let the world be more tolerant to such children and accept them wholeheartedly.

From Mr Eappen Elias

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Students: A time to be together

Everything happens for a reason, they say. Behind thousands of screens are eager eyes waiting for news from the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) headquarters, confirming when the last board exam will take place ("UAE among countries in which CBSE exams are cancelled", Gulf News, April 1). This morning it was confirmed that they will be cancelled. 

We were taught to work hard, be persistent and give our best this year. We were sitting for our Grade 12 board exams. This year was important because it decided our next step– college. We did our part. We worked really hard, we were persistent, we wrote exam after exam, limited our time socialising and maintained our focus. In fact, credit goes to our teachers too. They effortlessly worked towards moving forward.

After the news that CBSE exams will not take place in foreign countries, it was disheartening. Yet, there’s good in every bad situation, and maybe in this case, the good is that by cancelling the exam, we are saving lives. I have a message for those involved and affected by this.

To my fellow students, you did your part. Keep working on yourselves and be your best. To the teachers, thank you for encouraging us when we didn’t believe in ourselves. You did your part, we learnt well. To the parents, thank you for handling our tantrums and helping us cope emotionally.

Lastly, I would like to thank the coronavirus for teaching us to introspect and value things. This situation taught us the power of uncertainty, it made us stronger for a better tomorrow. Keep fighting and stay safe.

From Ms Ruveen Nijhawan

Coping with the ordeal of e-learning

The whole world is going through an unprecedented state of emergency ("Coronavirus: All UAE schools, universities extends e-learning until June", Gulf News, March 30). With each passing day the scene is changing. There’s uncertainty and unpredictability. There’s no play-book to deal with the present situation. Nobody was given the time or leisure to prepare for this catastrophe. The same is true of schools.

Being in the field of education, I know how stressed and overwhelmed the school communities have been over the past couple of weeks, gearing up to roll out the best remote learning solution possible. The unsung heroes here are the teachers who have been pouring over their devices, day in and day out to effectively engage their learners, even when away from school. Trust me, it’s no mean feat.

To be honest, it has not been easy to make a shift in sensibilities. Those confident teachers who have been delivering outstanding lessons in classrooms were in a flash, forced out of their comfort zones, to perform in front of a camera and mike. The expectation is for them to display wizardry while using the different applications and platforms to conduct their classes online. 

I do understand the dilemma that the parent community is facing. However, I’d like to make a plea for patience and understanding. Trust me, this isn’t easy for anyone. Put your trust in your child’s school and teachers. Give teachers the time to learn and adapt. They have always worked in the best interest of your child and you; they shall continue to do so. These are not times to be harsh, critical and judgmental. The school community needs your support. Remember, we are in this together.

If we want our children to tide over these times and come forth victorious, then we must act with discretion and prudence. This is the time to switch to survival mode. Teach children that it is important to exercise restraint for their safety and that of others around them. With a robust internet system and the magic of communication, there are so many productive ways to engage young minds. Read together, engage them in activities to strengthen their motor skills, cook, bake and more. Give children the opportunity to discover and invent. Teach them independence and resilience.

Minimising stress is absolutely pertinent. Hence, don’t stress over your child’s education. This remote learning exercise is in your control. Make the best of this opportunity. Your children will not fall behind. The valuable lessons they learn today will take them a long way in time. Above all, stay calm, stay healthy and stay safe.

From Ms Sheeba Jojo

Supermarket Social distancing
Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/ Gulf News Photographer

Coronavirus: What the pandemic taught me 

A pandemic is a threat, a catastrophe that is dramatically changing at an individual and global level ("Coronavirus: 10 life lessons we learned from the COVID-19 outbreak",, March 22). The life changing consequences of COVID-19 cannot be comprehensively included in one article nor even a book. The impact is universal and destructive, however, I do believe that every experience has a positive side.

Loss, suffering, pain always have universal messages to convey. I am not a specialist to analyse the economic and political impacts of COVID-19, but what we all know is that the world before the pandemic, will be entirely different one, after the virus is eradicated. I’m going to talk about what I’ve learnt during this time.

First, never take anything for granted. For the last few weeks, many people are social distancing or are in self quarantine. Meeting a friend, visiting a relative, eating out, and going outside have become risky and we are being advised against it. Our everyday routines that we complained about, have become a far-fetched blessing. After the pandemic is over, I am sure I will stop complaining about walking up early to drop my child to school.

Second, the rich and poor are equally affected by this virus. We got to know that money is not so important in a real crisis. We are all in a rat race running after money, but now we are in a situation where there is no medicine that money can buy. There are no flight tickets, and essentials are running out in some countries. Even the richest people cannot escape the pandemic that has no geographical boundary. Music concerts and football match tickets are unavailable for all, not only for the poor. Major events all around the world have been cancelled.

All passports are equal in a pandemic. No passport can take you anywhere. No passport assures you that you can survive the pandemic. Fourth, less is more. While I was trying to apply social distancing and minimising contact, I realised that less is more. Finally, the most important value in life is love. As we face COVID-19, we care less about our salary hike, promotions, job titles and trivial fights. Everything that we valued too much has become less important.

From Ms Suzy Sobhy

This affects us all, stop complaining 

We all have read about this in books and watched this in movies("UAE: 15 interesting things to do while at home, for little to no cost!",, March 19). Twenty years from now there will be people in jetpacks and flying cars talking about it. However, for many people, the current pandemic is not that menacing, and they think we can fight the disease, so there is no need to be worried. We still see people going out with their families because they think they are safe because they are carrying facemasks and sanitisers. But so did many of the victims in Italy, Spain and China. And yet here we are.

This is for us and our family, this is for our loved ones who may be away from us, or right next door. This is for all those young lives waiting to grow up and become the best football player of the generation or the coolest astronaut or policeman. This is for all those people who wished to finish their bucket lists. This is for the person sitting in front of their screen, whining about how boring quarantine is, while not realising how helpful they are being to the whole world at this very moment. Stay home and stay safe.

From Ms Sahar Naqvi

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