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Collaborating to improve children’s safety on the roads

Children showcasing their artworks, songs and dramas

07 May 2012 - Southern Africa faces many challenges, a serious one of which is the high rate of road deaths, with almost half of these fatalities being pedestrians. Furthermore, according to the 7th Annual Road Safety Africa Summit, 32% of all child fatalities in South Africa are due to road traffic accidents.

In early 2012, the Trans African Concessions (TRAC), who is responsible for the operation and management of 571km of the N4 toll route between the Hans Strijdom off-ramp in Pretoria (Tshwane) and the Port of Maputo in Mozambique, responded to country-wide accident statistics by resolving to improve pedestrian safety along this route.

Having identified high traffic zones along the N4 where pedestrians may be particularly vulnerable, TRAC called for proposals for the implementation of a pedestrian safety education plan at identified schools. As a pilot project, the focus was on schools in the Ngodwana area in Mpumalanga. “TRAC hopes to replicate this programme, should it be a success, in other communities along our route,” says the company’s CEO, Arthur Coy.

Aurecon, who is well-known for its extensive experience in designing, coordinating and implementing community-based projects, was awarded full project design, management and community consultation of TRAC’s very first Community Pedestrian Safety Pilot Project (CPSPP).

Following the submission of this plan, Aurecon then decided to contribute by co-funding the cost of implementing the CPSPP. “We wholeheartedly believe in the importance of this project’s success, and its ability to make a real and lasting difference from a national perspective, if implemented throughout the country. This led us to allocate a portion of our CSI budget to help fund it,” explains Tutu Mpungose, the driving force behind Aurecon Cares, Aurecon’s Corporate Social Investment (CSI) programme. 

Ensuring project success
The project, which kicked off this year, is modelled around research which has indicated that successful pedestrian safety projects at schools have two aspects in common: developing leaders (in this case, through mentoring and coaching), and keeping the programme visible and exciting (in this case, through the creation of an active, involved project steering committee).

Developing road safety leaders
Initially, the CPSPP will focus on three schools in the Ngodwana area: Clivia Primary School, Ntabashlope Primary School in Elandshoek and Riverside Combined School. Within these schools, Community Pedestrian Officers (CPOs) have been selected and are currently being trained by SAVE (South Africa Value Education), Aurecon's award-winning community development training group, to pass on vital knowledge and skills regarding road safety to hundreds of schoolchildren. An added benefit of using CPOs is that responsible, unemployed community members have been selected to fulfil these roles, thus allowing for the all-important creation of local jobs.

Keeping the programme visible by forming a local committee
In order to ensure the active involvement of the community, a steering committee representing the schools, the local community, SAPS, and the local traffic department has been formed. The role of the Steering Committee is to oversee the implementation of the project and to provide both support and resources: “The formation of this committee was crucial to ensuring the on-going buy-in of the community.” 

The committee recently made a joint decision to name the project Asiphephe, a word that in Zulu and SiSwati means ‘Let us be safe.’

Project progress
The project comprises of three main aspects: the training of potential CPOs, a period in which the appointed CPOs teach schoolchildren about road and pedestrian safety, and finally a period of project evaluation.

To date, eleven currently-unemployed locals have attended a five-day training course, while three will soon be hired as officers to implement the community pedestrian project at the various schools. The course aimed to equip a selected group of local community members with basic skills related to pedestrian and road safety in their area, addressing key issues such as self-image, managing oneself, time management, meeting procedures, working with the community, the development of children, and children’s needs and interests in relation to the issue of pedestrian road safety.

Encouragingly, feedback from one CPOs who attended this course included: “The workshop meant a lot to me and changed the way I was thinking about myself and life. I have gained knowledge and skills for a much more responsible, safe and healthy life style,” while another remarked, “I also see opportunity of the safety for children, even older people. I see positive direction not only for me but for those I am going to share about the course.”

Once chosen, the CPOs will use sponsored road safety training material to present Life Orientation classes in the schools and encourage a change of behaviour in the schoolchildren through reinforcement with songs, art and role-play/drama. The officers will also accompany young learners who walk along the highway to and from school each day. This continuous, practical, hands-on approach aims to ingrain a habit of safe road practices in young lives.

After the project has run for six months, it will be evaluated based on feedback and practical experience for possible improvement. Aurecon Project Manager, Melissa Groenewald, concludes, “There is a tremendous need for such initiatives in many of our provinces, and the likelihood of implementation increases if there is already training material and a set structure in place to follow. Aurecon Cares is proud to be involved with TRAC in this initiative and we anticipate a successful and sustainable project ahead.”

For emergencies or assistance along the N4 toll route, contact the TRAC N4 Helpdesk – 24/7:

0800 8722 64
082 881 4444

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