Action to save children’s lives with ‘Safe Schools’ project in South Africa

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Zoleka Mandela and Gabriel Kardos with Sivile schoolchildren
Zoleka Mandela and Gabriel Kardos with Sivile schoolchildren
South Africa’s Takalani Sesame helped launch the project
South Africa’s Takalani Sesame helped launch the project
Avi Silverman, Road Safety Fund Director
Avi Silverman, Road Safety Fund Director

The granddaughter of Nelson Mandela and global road safety campaigner, Zoleka Mandela has led the launch of the first Safe Schools project in South Africa, an initiative for the Decade of Action for Road Safety. The project has been initiated by the Road Safety Fund and has been made possible through global support for project work which is part of the Decade of Action for Road Safety. The project is primarily funded with a donation from Decade of Action global corporate supporter Janssen, a Johnson & Johnson company.

Zoleka Mandela led the Safe Schools event at the launch school, Sivile Primary, in Western Cape. She was joined by injury prevention NGO and project lead Childsafe South Africa and Takalani Sesame, the South African partner of Sesame Workshop.

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 Takalani Sesame and Childsafe.

Additional financing and technical support is provided by WorleyParsons, IVECO, and the FIA Foundation. The International Road Assessment Programme, iRAP is working with local partners to introduce safe road infrastructure on the routes to and from school. The Medical Research Council is coordinating the monitoring and evaluation of the project.

Zoleka Mandela said: “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 and young people 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”.

A cluster of schools from low income settlements in Western Cape have been selected as pilot sites for the 12 month first phase of the Safe Schools project. Their children face high risks of road traffic injury. The schools are: Sivile in Khayelitsha, Imbasa in Nyanga and ACJ Phakade in Strand. Isikhokelo in Khayelitsha is the control school in accordance with monitoring and evaluation best practice. The project is the first of its kind in South Africa but is in line with similar initiatives supported via the Road Safety Fund globally including in Tanzania, Mexico and Costa Rica.

iRAP together with the City of Cape Town have performed an initial survey of the Sivile Primary School road network. Sivile has approximately 1150 children on its rolls, 90% of whom are pedestrians, mainly crossing the busy and hazardous Jeff Masemola Road. This road is high risk, with vehicles travelling at speed and requires improved protection for the hundreds of children crossing at peak times to and from school. In its initial survey work, iRAP has rated sections of the Jeff Masemola Road as only 1 star in terms of safety, placing child pedestrians in severe danger.

Professor Sebastian van As, Childsafe Chair, said: “This project is desperately needed to protect our school children. 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 great potential to prevent injuries and save lives. Together with our partners we look forward to taking forward this vital work for the Decade of Action for Road Safety”.

Gabriel Kardos, Senior Manager of Fleet Safety for EMEA and Asia Pacific representing Janssen said that the project reflects his company’s ethic of welfare and social responsibility set out in its ‘Credo’ values: “Janssen and the Johnson & Johnson family of companies has been committed to road safety through our global fleet safety initiative called SAFE Fleet launched two decades ago.   With over 34.000 vehicles on the roads worldwide, we have a Credo inspired obligation to ensure that our drivers around the world return home safely to their loved ones at the end of each day. Through the global Road Safety Fund, we have been able to live our Credo commitment by supporting the communities in which we live and work. We have been active supporters of global road safety initiatives aimed at preventing young vulnerable road users from falling victim to road traffic crashes. As such, we are proud to be supporting this Safe Schools pilot initiative in South Africa.”

Avi Silverman, Director of the Road Safety Fund said: “The Safe Schools project being taken forward by Sivile Primary and its sister schools here in the Western Cape can make a vital contribution to the Decade of Action for Road Safety. Thanks to the International Road Assessment Programme, there is a clear plan of action to make the route to school safer. This can be powerfully combined with a tried and tested education programme. Financing by global donors has catalysed this project and through strong engagement with the community this project has the chance to become sustainable –saving lives year after year.”

Stephen Sobhani, Sesame Workshop’s International Group Vice President for Africa/Global Health Initiatives said: “For thirteen years Takalani Sesame has been educating and engaging the children of South Africa and we are proud to be a part of this vital initiative. We take a long term view to the importance of road safety by providing research-based education for children and their families that result in meaningful change”.

In memory of her daughter Zenani Mandela Jnr, Zoleka Mandela and her family have been campaigning for road safety to become a priority for global development. The aim is to increase international funding and support to catalyse road safety initiatives nationally. A key focus is campaigning together with the FIA Foundation and Commission for Global Road Safety for road safety to be included in the new ‘Post-2015’ global Development Goals currently being negotiated at the United Nations.

At the launch event, Zoleka Mandela, project partners and the Sivile School voted for ‘better roads and transport’ in the UN’s ‘MY World’ global survey on public priorities for the post-2015 agenda.

Click here to download star ratings briefing report on Sivile School by iRAP >
Click here for the project outline >
Vote for better roads and transport at MY World >