One child killed on their way to school is one too many

Debbie Schafer, Western Cape Government Minister of Education

Donald Grant, Western Cape Government Minister of Transport and Public Works

At 7:38am on Friday 8th August 2014, a little boy called Inga Mtekwana was struck and killed at a pedestrian crossing at Nkazimlo Primary School in Makhaza, Khayelitsha on the way to school. Inga is not alone. Just this year, at least 55 small children have been knocked down and killed on roads in the Western Cape. Most of these children were little boys, just like Inga.

Most were killed on busy roads in the Metro. Many were killed going to school or coming home from school, with many more killed as they played in the afternoon in or near streets around where they live. A large number of our child pedestrian deaths occur in poorer communities like Khayelitsha, where Inga was killed.

This morning, Minister Debbie Schäfer visited Nkazimlo Primary School and participated in a “long short walk” and scholar patrol demonstration conducted by the Road Safety Management team from the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works.

This programme is in partnership with the Western Cape Education Department and the Department of Transport and Public Works and is aimed at making the areas around our schools safer for the children  who walk to and from school daily, and are amongst the most vulnerable and affected by the carnage on our roads.

Together with the Department of Transport and Public Work’s Safely Home campaign, we will continue to highlight the plight of child pedestrians on our roads, particularly in this month of October where child pedestrian safety is the focus for the campaign.

The Western Cape Government will today be launching a radio campaign on Radio Zibonele and Umhlobo Wenene, to carry this important safety message to our most affected communities through radio, and later this month through poster and other road safety education events.

The importance of early education about road safety is evident in the Life Skills curriculum of the first five years of schooling. In Grade R learners cover topics related to “Dangerous places to play and safety on the roads”.

In Grade 2, four hours are allocated to Road safety under the headings:

  • Rules for road safety
  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists
  • Passengers
  • Road signs for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Scholar patrols
  • How traffic officials help us

In Grade 3 ‘Safety in public areas’ includes the topics:

  • Dangerous places to play – such as roads – and safe travel on taxi and trains.
  • Safe train and taxi travel

The Grade 4 curriculum (CAPS) allocates 1½h in term 4 to cover “Traffic rules relevant to road users: pedestrians and cyclists”

Traffic rules relevant to road users:

– Pedestrians and cyclists

– Passenger behavior

– Railway safety

There is also weekly reading by learners about traffic rules relevant to road users.

Our children must be afforded every opportunity to be all that they want to be, and to have all their dreams realised. Dying so senselessly on our roads means they will never be doctors or artisans. They will never be nurses, or teachers, or policemen. They will never be businessmen or builders. They will never be firemen or scientists who find the cure for cancer and AIDS. Their potential is lost forever, like that of Inga.

The time will come when our children will be safe on our roads, but it won’t come easily. We can only get there if we are willing to join hands, as communities, as government, as religious institutions, and take a united stand against the behaviour that is killing our children. Speeding, reckless overtaking and, above all, alcohol are behind the deaths of our precious children.

We must do all we can to change behaviours and attitudes towards road safety and ensure that we all do not become another statistic on our roads.

Masiqaphele abantwana bethu. Let us protect our children, for they are the future.

For more information on Safely Home’s Child Pedestrian Safety focus for the month of October, visit www.safelyhome.westerncape.gov.za or follow the campaign on Twitter @WCGovSafelyHome, under the hashtag #SafeRoadsSafeKids