A student on a school bus at a public school in Sharjah during the event Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: Half of children in the UAE do not know how to open the school bus door to exit if they were left inside, a new study suggests.

The social experiment was held by the Child Safety Department (CSD), an affiliate of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah, for children between the ages of 6 and 8 from various nationalities.

It also showed the children do not know how to draw the attention of passers-by to help them, which puts them at serious risks including death due to lack of oxygen and high temperatures inside the bus or closed vehicle for an extended period.

Held in collaboration with the Sharjah Civil Defence Authority at a public school, the CSD experiment targeted several male and female students, where each child was left alone inside a closed school bus to monitor their reactions and if they could successfully exit the bus. The experiment revealed that children’s responses varied, with only half of the participants being able to take the necessary steps to leave the bus.

A Civil Defence official interacts with the pupils Image Credit: Supplied

Awareness workshop

Alongside the experiment, the Sharjah Civil Defence conducted an awareness workshop, which focused on educating children on the steps they should take if they are left inside a bus or closed vehicle, starting with opening the windows for ventilation and then repeatedly honking the horn to attract the attention of people to help the child exit.

Hanadi Al Yafei

CSD Director Hanadi Al Yafei said: “The vision behind our efforts is to raise awareness of the entire community and institutions on proactive measures to reduce potential risks children may face. We carried out the social experiment to present to officials and parents statistics revealing the importance of raising children’s awareness on safety measures and organising workshops at educational institutions to teach students basic safety skills.”

She added: “We hope this experiment will serve as a model for institutions in the UAE and the region to measure the risk and find solutions to prevent childhood accidents. We also hope it serves as an incentive for parents and organisations dealing with children to raise awareness of the young segment of the community on the necessary actions to take when they are at risk. This experiment can be modelled to various incidents because protecting children is a community responsibility, and children themselves have a role in it to protect themselves.”

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The social experiment is part of a series of CSD initiatives to increase awareness about all factors that impact children’s safety. At the beginning of the school year, the department hosted a two-day workshop titled ‘School Bus Safety Golden Rules’, attended by 900 bus drivers, supervisors and navigators who are responsible for the bus commutes of thousands of pupils across the emirate of Sharjah. The workshop updated attendees on the best practices of children safety during their transportation to and from their schools.

CSD also published an awareness video on social media highlighting the experiment’s findings. The video underscored the danger of leaving children unattended in buses and vehicles and asserted the importance of cooperation between various stakeholders and parents in safeguarding children against all risks.