Safe Schools pilot launched in South Africa

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School children join Takalani Sesame’s ambassadors to launch the ‘Safe Schools’ project at Sivile Primary School
School children join Takalani Sesame’s ambassadors to launch the ‘Safe Schools’ project at Sivile Primary School
The project partners discussed implementation at a planning meeting in Cape Town
The project partners discussed implementation at a planning meeting in Cape Town
The Safe Schools project will bring together a holistic team of NGOs, government & police
The Safe Schools project will bring together a holistic team of NGOs, government & police

An innovative pilot project bringing together star-rating road assessment, low cost infrastructure improvements and the educational experience of Sesame Street has been launched in South Africa by the Road Safety Fund.

Led by local injury prevention NGO Childsafe, with partners including the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP), Takalani Sesame (Sesame Workshop’s South African team), the Zenani Mandela Campaign, GRSP South Africa and the Medical Research Council, South Africa and with support from the local and national authorities, the project will focus on a cluster of schools in low-income settlements near Cape Town. The project is funded through a $150,000 donation from Janssen, a Johnson & Johnson company, with additional financing from truck manufacturer IVECO and the FIA Foundation.

The 12 month pilot project will implement road safety improvements coupled with child, parent and teacher road safety training at high risk schools. Once such school was chosen as the site to announce the project. Sivile Primary School in Khayelitsha has approximately 1150 children on its rolls, 90% of whom are pedestrians, mainly crossing the busy and hazardous Jeff Masemola Road. This road has a high number of traffic deaths and vehicles travel along it at speed, with no traffic calming measures in place (roundabouts, traffic lights or pedestrian crossings).

Partners participating in the kick-off meeting in Cape Town and at Sivile Primary School included Professor Sebastian van As, Chair of Childsafe South Africa and Head of the Trauma Unit at the South African  Red Cross; Chiedza Mavengere, Deputy Director of Childsafe South Africa; Yasmeen Engelbrecht, Project Director at Takalani Sesame; and Avi Silverman, Communications Director for the FIA Foundation, who said: “For the past year the Mandela Family has been leading the ‘Long Short Walk’ campaign internationally to advocate for safe environments for all children and for road safety to be part of the post-2015 development goals. With this project the Zenani Mandela Campaign is bringing the message home to South Africa in a very practical way which will benefit some of the most deprived and vulnerable young children in the country.”

The project will consist of 5 main components:

  • iRAP road safety assessments and safety star ratings – to evaluate the pre-project safety of the local road network and provide a star rating to show relative road risks for different classes of road users; to provide a comprehensive menu of costed countermeasures and estimated injury reductions; to advocate to policymakers for sustained investment in child road safety.
  • Small scale infrastructure improvements – guided by the iRAP star ratings the project consortium will implement some low-cost road design and traffic calming improvements to protect children on their route to and from school. All improvements will be carried out in partnership with relevant local authorities;
  • Teacher/community training and child education – in partnership with Sesame Workshop, the project consortium will research and develop attractive and effective road safety training materials, and work with Childsafe to deliver this in-school with training for teachers and classes for children;
  • High-visibility bags/clothing – children at the participating schools will be provided with locally sourced reflective equipment to increase their conspicuity to traffic on journeys to and from school;
  • Monitoring & Evaluation – all components of the project will be rigorously evaluated by their lead implementer. The Safety and Peace Promotion Research Unit (SAPPRU) of South Africa’s Medical Research Council will be responsible for overall measurement of behavioural change and traffic injury reduction arising from the project.

Childsafe Chair Professor van As, said: “Our schools really suffer from a lack of basic but essential road safety. You see the kids walking to and from school here every day and it’s shocking how vulnerable and how exposed they are to fast moving traffic. We desperately need a project like this to save young lives.”

The project will build on existing good practice in delivering safe routes to school, and will extend an IRAP research & development project seeking to translate its star rating methodology to the localised school environment. Childsafe, an affiliate of Safe Kids Worldwide, will bring learnings from that organisation’s ‘model school zones’, and Takalani Sesame will bring its many years of successful experience in children’s public health education on HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Engagement with the local and national government and police authorities will be crucial to the success of the initiative. iRAP is already beginning work to implement a national road assessment programme on highways with South Africa’s Department of Transport and Road Traffic Management Corporation.

Saul Billingsley, Director of the Road Safety Fund, welcomed the launch: “This new project creates a holistic team with the potential to dramatically improve road safety for young children walking to and from school in a busy and dangerous road environment. We are excited at the opportunity to pull together this initiative and would like to thank Jane Griffiths, Company Group Chairman of Janssen, for her personal interest and support for this work. This Safer Schools project builds on the Road Safety Fund’s existing portfolio of child injury prevention programmes, ranging from helmet safety with AIP Foundation in Asia to legislative advocacy and child seat belt implementation by Fundacion Gonzalo Rodriguez in South America, and the schools area safety programmes of Amend in sub-Saharan Africa.”