Time to catch them young and nurture them

By Lakshmi Kothaneth — MUSCAT: He is just 18 years old and he won Red Bull’s title, King of Drift. He just got his driving licence. So where did he get all this energy and skill? And he has been go-karting for many years. Haitham al Hadidi impressed visitors from other countries as well as his home-based fans at the Red Bull Car Park Drift Final 2016 held at Sultan Qaboos Port.
Spectators continued to cheer and jump on the stands as he was handed the trophy. Just as we rushed to capture the emotions of winners and the team members, I saw a gentleman come to support Hathim with a little flag and wondered if it was just another fan. There was pride in his eyes.
It was soon revealed he is Hathim’s grandfather, Shekhan al Abry. He spoke about his grandson’s interest in cars even as a child and how Hathim’s father and rest of the family nurtured that interest.
“I never thought I will see this in my life,” Al Abry said. It was a great moment to be with the grandson, rejoicing and soaking in his success.
It left a lot to think about. When a grandfather comes to support a venture, you can imagine the support system for a child. Mentors come in all forms. As a child, one of the best form of support comes from maternal/ paternal grandparents, besides parents.
Grandparents can handle shocks better than parents, who are very often in the “midst of impatience”.
There are, however, children who do not have any of these support systems and yet excel. One reason, of course, is they have inborn talent and second, the teachers have identified and nurtured the budding talent.
Identifying talent is as important as imparting knowledge to students. Equally important is offering opportunities for youngsters to prove and challenge themselves.
The Shell Road Safety Awards 2016 was yet another platform that featured young talent. There were students and educationists, proud of their brilliant students, who had gathered at the Road Safety Institute of Royal Oman Police to attend the prize distribution.
There were young ones who had painted to convey their message – the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving. There were young researchers and multimedia presentations that were delivered by students.
There is another important aspect of the whole initiative: the event has created many ambassadors of road safety who would be the right candidates to drive home the message of staying safe on roads.
The message of road safety has been conveyed through the media, but nothing is as effective as a young one in the family cautioning elders when he/ she sees someone in the family speaking on the cellphone, or worse, texting while driving.
“Making calls or replying to a text message can wait until you are safe to respond,” said Assem al Kharousi, a young school student.
Another student on the podium asked, “Who is responsible for the young students being left behind in school buses? What is the role of school bus drivers?  How can parents contribute to solving the issue?”
“School buses have become a cause of concern vis-a-vis road safety. There are not enough studies about students being left behind in buses, except for one in the UAE. Why are kindergarten students forgotten in school buses?”
“There is a need to teach students,” she pointed out. One of the important points that drew everyone’s attention was the photograph of Maryam al Kharousi, a survivor. She cried out for help and pressed the horn. When she didn’t receive any response, she decided to pick her bag and jump through the bus window.”
“We need smart schools. Work on cooperation with schools, universities and colleges to invent alarms or sensors,” she suggested.
To come to this conclusion, she had conducted research and visited schools to make a presentation while studying the subject.
And all this was definitely not part of her school curriculum!