Programme beefs up road safety

PHIRI CAWE

Childsafe’s Safe School project, aimed at protecting pupils on the roads as they travel to and from school, has been welcomed by education and transport stakeholders.

The project, a joint initiative between the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), Road Accident Fund, the South African Police Services and company Iveco, was launched at Isikhokelo Primary School, in Site C, on Thursday May 26.

It is aimed at curbing road accidents involving pupils in the area.

A safety pledge committing stakeholders to the initiative was also signed.

Pumla Mtambeka, Childsafe South Africa director, said the launch was the second in the province. The pilot project was launched in May last year.

“The project is a pioneering approach to road safety, introducing safe road infrastructure to protect school children on the route to and from school, combined with road safety education and awareness for children and teachers from project leader Childsafe South Africa and its partners,” she said.

Ms Mtambeka said a cluster of schools from low income settlements in the province were selected to be part of the project last year.

The schools included Sivile Primary School, in Khayelitsha, Imbasa Primary School, in Nyanga, and ACJ Phakade Primary School, in Strand.

She said this year the focus was at Isikhokelo Primary School.

As early as 7am last Thursday, pupils were on the streets, getting lessons on how to cross the busy Site C roads. Young and old took to the street calling for an end to road deaths.

Pupils in reflector bibs went around to all the hotspots and were shown how to approach the oncoming traffic. All this was done with the help of taxi owners and the host, Childsafe.

Launching the project at the school, Mpho Mokhatso of RTMC said road safety was everybody’s responsibility.

He called on everyone to help save young people’s lives and for the various stakeholders to work with each other for the safety of pupils.

“We can and we must do far more to protect our children. Road traffic injury is a man-made epidemic and a serious burden on children globally, but it is preventable. The vaccines for this epidemic are readily available, safe crossings, protected footpaths, and speed restrictions, together with well-designed education programmes. No child should be denied protection on our roads. We are calling for global support to ensure that road safety becomes a development priority. With this project, we are walking the talk, demonstrating just what can be achieved. Lives can be saved, here in South Africa and around the world,” he said.

The school has approximately

1188 pupils and 90 percent of them travel to school on foot, crossing the busy and hazardous Jeff Masemola Road.

The road is high risk, with vehicles travelling at excessive speed. It needs improved safety measures for the hundreds of children crossing at peak times to and from school.

Professor Sebastian van As, Childsafe chairperson, said while he worked as a doctor at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, he found that many children were there because of road accidents. He said the project was desperately needed to protect pupils. “We are suffering from a lack of basic but essential road safety. The kids walking to and from school each day are exposed to fast moving traffic. All too often we see the tragic results in the trauma unit of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. This project has a great potential to prevent injuries and save lives. Together with our partners, we look forward to taking forward this vital work for the (United Nations) Decade of Action for Road Safety,” he said.

According to the United Nations’ World Health Organisation website, the UN Road Safety Collaboration has developed a global plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety from 2011 to 2020.

The categories include building road safety management capacity; improving the safety of road infrastructure and broader transport networks; further developing the safety of vehicles; enhancing the behaviour of road users; and improving post-crash care.

Siwe Coka, from the Khayelitsha Road and Traffic Forum, said with projects such as Safe Schools, pupils’ safety could be secured. However, she children need to be given a chance to speak about the kind of safety measures they want.

Daniela Ropolo, Sustainability Manager for CNH Industrial, said her company was very proud to support the project at Isikhokelo Primary School. She said given the right of every child to safely walk on his way to learning, she strongly hoped that many other companies will join this approach and will contribute in the future to the project.