A school counselor found that traditional punishments were not always the best tools when it came to teaching unruly pupils a lesson – so he started using hammers and spanners and even tyre irons.
Yaqoub Alhamadi, who works at Al Shahba School for boys in Sharjah, decided to engage with pupils who broke the rules or did not turn up by making a simple deal: come to class, behave and you can spend time learning about the things you love most, cars and engines.
“I started luring the kids to the idea of fixing cars. Almost every kid loves and hopes to be able to drive and own a car,” he said. “I hoped that I would get their full attention with this activity.”
Mr Alhamadi now runs classes teaching the basics of car mechanics and repair during the open activity lesson time, when pupils are given free time to read or play sports.
What sounded like a radical solution at first has had great results, with children who used to be unruly in classes or skip them altogether now attending regularly. They are more focused, quiet and, most importantly, keeping out of trouble, said Mr Alhamadi.
“That means we successfully changed their behaviour,” he said.
Mr Alhamadi, who has a love of repairing cars, gives the pupils aged 12 to 17 a basic introduction on how to repair and maintain a car.
“I spend a lot of my free time in the industrial areas in Sharjah, I keep talking to car professionals and mechanics to learn as much as I can.
“I have 25 students, I keep them engaged by keeping them up to date with mechanics, which is really helpful to me as well. I keep learning new stuff, which benefits me and I pass it to them,” Mr Alhamadi said.
“The students enjoy learning how the parts of the gears work, I also let them work on my car and other teachers volunteered their cars to let them note the differences between each model.
“I taught them how to check oil levels, and taught them how a car’s radiator works.”
Among the common problems Mr Alhamadi has taught his students to fix is how to change a tyre, something that came in handy for 15-year-old Zaid Mohammed.
“The lessons I took were very useful, just last week my dad had a flat tyre and I changed it without a problem. The counsellor gave us lots of advice on how to deal with car problems. I know how to check water levels and oil.”
Mohammed Abdullah said he had learnt the difference between regular water and radiator water and how to carry out a daily check-up before using a car, which has impressed his father.
“I told my father about the lessons I took. He liked the idea and started quizzing me about the information that I learnt after every lesson and he started teaching me additional stuff. Previously, I never knew anything about car mechanics, now I know so much.”
“The next step that I am considering is to teach them how to buy and sell cars,” Mr Alhamadi said. “I will teach them how to check if the car was repainted, or had a major accident. It might helpful to them in the future.”