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Students: How To Keep Safe When You Leave UAE

Students: How To Keep Safe When You Leave UAE

Come September, the month of new beginnings also brings with it many new challenges – especially for parents with older children. Kissing good-bye and packing them off to an adult life of independence, at work or at university, is never an easy task. While they are enthusiastic and hopeful, we are tearful and fearful. With good reason, and it is our fault!

Several of us will have spent a number of years in the relative safety and security of Dubai. Its very safety may have been a contributory factor towards our decision to move out here to work; it is this perceived safety, however, that turns round and smacks us in the face when the time comes for our children to return to places that are infinitely more dangerous. Their sheltered lives here, the security they grew up with, renders them trusting and very vulnerable. In short, they are completely unsuited to independent life somewhere else.

They may be able to cook and, if we trained them really well, even be able to clean their own shoes. They can negotiate their way around most cuisines and purchase air tickets for any destination. Ask them to get a bus ticket and it is a different story altogether. They have only learnt how to hail a cab!

Due to our attempts at sheltering them from harm, they have to learn now, in a crash course, what would be second nature to most European or American children from a very young age. This is bad. To make matters worse, the life we are trying to prepare them for no longer resembles the lives we had when growing up, so we are somewhat limited in what we can pass on.

Where do we start?  Personal safety?  Safe sex? Drug awareness? Ensuring the safety of valuables? How to keep internet usage with the vast array of things available there to a sensible level? The list is daunting’ so often we are also faced with bright young kids who, naturally, think that they know everything better than us; that we are over-reacting. In some respects they may even be right, but telling them so could be costly in terms of their safety.

We must not assume that they know anything. They have to learn it all now. Here are a few points to start them off with:




1. Lock the door to your flat/room no matter how short a time you are out for. Close and lock all windows too. Don’t think that having insurance will solve the problem of loss. The insurance does not pay out if all conceivable precautions had not been taken. To be on the safe side, take note of all serial numbers of your valuables such as laptops and cameras, even a photo, if it is jewellery for example.

2. Do not leave valuables in sight, either in ground floor windows or cars.

3. Never carry valuables visibly on your person. Keep bags closed and purses in front pockets. Do not count money visibly – say – on the tube! (As witnessed on a school trip!) Do not flaunt smart phones.



1. At night walk with purpose and speed in the middle of pavements (confident body language is a deterrent) ie not too close to dark gateways or to the curb. Walk parallel to oncoming traffic if possible and keep to pavements. Avoid parks, car parks, dark alley ways etc, even if this means a longer route home. Stay on bigger well-lit streets. Do not listen to music through earphones – it is important to pick up sounds from the surroundings.

2. If people ask for directions do not step close to the car. Lie if necessary.

3. Never, ever get into a car with people you don’t know so NO hitchhiking!

4. If possible go around in twos and threes. Keep to well-lit main roads. If followed by someone who appears sinister go into a shop, restaurant or other safe place. If the person continues to follow, either inform someone of your suspicion or phone someone to come and collect you. Always have enough money on you for emergency cab fare.

5. On public transport at night try to sit close to the driver if possible.

6. On a train get into a carriage with several other people.

7. Try not walk around either very early or very late. Vary routine if possible. Make sure you always have your mobile with you, that it is fully charged and that there is credit on it.

8. Shouting is an excellent form of defence. Shout “call 999” rather than “help”. People tend to react quicker if it is a clearcut situation.

9. If a car starts following you cross the road and walk into a shop. If there is none, walk up to a front door and ring the bell.

10. Always have your key ready in your hand when arriving home in the dark so that you do not stand around fumbling by your front door. If you think you have been followed, do not go into your house. Ring the bell of a neighbour or a friend who lives close. Go somewhere else nearby.

11. Always know the exact address of your destination and memorise the house number when going to visit someone. Try not to chat on the phone or listen to loud music. Be aware of your surroundings, especially after dark.

12. Girls with a car should not remotely open the car from a distance. A would-be rapist can then easily identify their car and slip into a back seat even in the 60 seconds the car is unlocked. In remote locations, never get out to investigate any strange thing – what appears to be a body on the road, a baby in a car seat or any other out of the ordinary occurrence. Call the police and send them to have a look if concerned.

13. Never, ever give out personal information to any agency or person you do not know and trust. Never give out a friend’s details either, even at work or socially.

14. Lock and bolt the front door once you are inside your house or flat. Do not open the door to anyone, without verifying who they are first. Do not investigate taps suddenly turned on in the garden. Wait until you are not alone and then see to it.

15. If something is being delivered that you have not ordered, tell them to try again later while you establish whether it is genuine. Never open a door if you are not sure, and never let on that you are alone.

16. If you are a female living alone in a flat do not put your full name by the buzzer, only initials and surname. That way it is not obvious that there is a female living there alone.

17. Adopt the habit of telling someone – a flatmate or a friend – when going out: where you are going, who with and when you expect to be back. That way anything amiss will be noticed. In the same way when leaving a friend’s house late at night send a quick message to let the friend know you have arrived home safely. Get someone to see you into a taxi at night and note the number. Always do the same for friends. Once in the cab, text the number to your flatmates or to another trusted friend. Be sure the driver is aware that you are doing this.

18. If you are not in a fit state to get home ask to spend the night. A less fit person is an obvious target, and you may not be in a position to judge a potentially dangerous situation. Plan ahead how you are going to get home, especially if you are dressed for a party. Some clothes are not fit for stumbling home in. Consider taking an alternative pair of shoes to change into after a party, especially if you are wearing heels.

Sadly most rapes and violent attacks are committed by people the victim knows.There is no protection against this. You must try to use common sense and develop your instincts. Try to remember that a nice face is not enough to go on; that someone whose situation appears to be the same as yours may be pretending.

If you get “bad vibes” it is best to stay safe and opt out. Embarrassment is a lot easier to deal with then abject fear or worse. Obviously too much drink (or drug use) clouds your judgement and renders you defenceless; avoid such situations.

On a final note – most people have no major incidents throughout their lives. However, we all have, and will continue to, experience fear in some form or other many times throughout life. This is a necessary self-preservation mechanism that helps us stay safe and sensible. Be vigilant wherever you are.

— xx —

Agnes Holly has worked for more than 25 years in education ranging from university to nursery, and everything in-between.  She is a qualified SEN teacher and has worked extensively with children who have dyslexia and ADHD.  She has additional practical experience in the form of five of her own children aged between 6 and 23.


1 Comment

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  1. Nicola says
    February 27, 2014, 9:29 am

    Another sensible article.


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