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'Paint-an-accident' contest draws flak

Child psychologists and parents say a topic like 'The accident I saw' can lead to stress disorder among children

It was meant for creating much-needed awareness regarding road safety. But the drawing competition for schoolchildren being organised by Mumbai's regional transport offices (RTOs) and education department has now taken on a rather gloomy hue, with child psychologists claiming that subjects like 'The accident I saw' may send a young participant into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


The dirty picture: The contest is being held during the ongoing road
safety week. There are three topics for the drawing competition -- The
Accident I Saw, Traffic Jam and School Bus Policy.



The contest is being held during the ongoing road safety week -- from January 1 to 7. Circulars to this effect were sent to schools last month from respective zonal education departments. During this annual event, every year workshops are arranged for drivers and school students to create awareness on road safety. Apart from the painting competition, an essay-writing contest is also being held for schoolkids.

Colour correction
The drawing competition has been segmented into two categories -- one comprising kids from classes V to VII and the other for children from classes VIII to X. There are three topics for the drawing competition -- 'The accident I saw', 'Traffic jam' and 'School bus policy'. The essay topics are 'Road safety and my responsibility', 'Air pollution: A problem', 'Safe transport for school students', 'Transport problems in Mumbai city and its solutions'. The word count for each essay should be around 250.
    
Dr Seema Hingorani, child psychologist and traumatologist, said, "Drawing is a form of psychotherapy. When a child draws something, lot of emotions could pour out. It depends on the kid's personality on whether he takes the subject positively or negatively. Most children after working on such topics will feel some form of relief. But some of them can get post-traumatic stress disorder where they can start experiencing bad dreams, bedwetting, urge to cry, sudden fear etc. I won't advise such kind of competitions without proper precautions. If at all this kind of a topic is part of a drawing competition a child should not be left alone and a parent should observe him/her closely after the painting is over. If help is needed, the kid should be taken to a counsellor, because the child can end up portraying a really gory incident, which can prove detrimental for him/her."

Sketchy on specifics?
"If subjects like this are given and if a child is practicing on them before the competition, even that could lead to a problem. Asking a child to paint on a topic like 'The accident I saw' is not right, as it has negative connotations. Instead of making them remember the traumatic accident that they may have witnessed, one should give them something creative to do," said psychiatrist Anjali Chabbria.

Arundhati Chavan, president of the PTA United Forum, an organisation of Parent Teachers' Associations in city schools said, "The topic may have a positive as well as a negative impact. The positive aspect is that the drawing may help a child express his/her feelings. On the flipside, we are letting the kid back into the trauma by making him/her recollect the accident."

The other side
Sadanand Agashe, road coordinator, Mumbai region, National Road Safety Project, said, "Road Transport Ministry observes road safety this week in the whole country. I used to conduct disaster management and safety awareness programmes at industrial levels. I decide the topics for drawing and essay because I have been conducting this programme since 1991 on road safety. 1993 onwards, competitions started at the school level."
BD Puri, education inspector, south zone, said, "We have just done our job of sending the circular to all the schools. The RTO, which conducts the road safety week in the first week of January, provides all the information in the circular. Schools conduct the competition at their level and send the best drawings and essays to the concerned officers of the traffic department whose addresses and phone numbers are mentioned in the circular. We neither choose the topics nor conduct any competitions."

Voices
If the child has only seen the accident and is drawing it, then it is fine. But if he was in that accident and saw someone dying in front of his eyes, recollecting such memories can be bad for the child. It's not a good idea to give such subjects to children
-- Parag Zaveri, parent of a Std IX student of a Grant Road school


I don't think it's correct to make a child recollect the bad memory. In fact the kids should have been given a topic such as learning how to cross the road, helping the elderly on the streets, etc. The topic like 'The accident I saw' can cause a child no end of trauma
-- Zohar Yusuf Golwala, whose child studies at a South Mumbai school

Make documentary on road safety for Navi Mumbai cops
Navi Mumbai traffic police has offered enthusiasts an opportunity to write a screenplay for a documentary on road safety issues. It is one of the measures taken by the department as part of its Road Safety Campaign 2012, which is being conducted from January 2 to 16.

Also, the traffic police will seek proposals for changes in the structure of the infamous Palm Beach Road from engineering students in Navi Mumbai to make the stretch safer.

The traffic department has thrown open the Documentary Screenplay Writing Competition to management students, advertising agencies, animation centres and media.

Vijay Patil, deputy commissioner of Navi Mumbai traffic police, said, "In order to promote the cause of road safety, we are going to seek ideas from professionals of different fields to make an effective documentary film.

Participants just need to write a theme or screenplay using their creativity, which involves issues like avoiding usage of cellphones while driving, use of helmet, seat belt, avoiding rash driving, and other traffic rules. Based on the screenplay, a documentary film of at least 30 sec to 5 min will be made. The screenplays will be checked by a central evaluation team and the top three will be selected for prizes."

Following this, the traffic police plans to make one or more documentary films with the help of NGOs or production houses using the screenplays. "A few NGOs and advertising agencies have displayed interest in making such a documentary film. We will seek help of NGOs to generate funds for the production of the film," said Patil.

"We have also written letters to principals of various engineering colleges in Navi Mumbai, asking them to carry out a study of Palm Beach road, where many accidents have occurred in the last few years,"
said Patil.   

- Saurabh Katkurwar

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