Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Proposal To Include Road Safety In Zambia's School Curriculum

A mangled Mazhandu Family Bus Services coach
By Pumulo Mungoma

Probably just like you, I love to share with family and friends my memorable days as a primary school child in the early 1990s at Nakambala Basic School on the sugarcane plantations of Zambia’s sweetest town, Mazabuka. 

I vividly recall how my “veteran” class teacher, a Mrs Munyama, would make us sing beautiful songs before and after classes!  Like many other pupils of our time, one of the almost “compulsory” songs we sang was a road safety melody that went like: “I want to cross the road; look right, look left, and look right again…..”  You remember the song? We sang this song with passion. It was a road safety reminder as we crossed many roads to and from school.  The song enhanced our road safety consciousness.  Today, alas, the picture seems different.

Zambia joined the rest of the world in commemorating the 2014 Zambia Road Safety Week from 14th to 20th December, which was spearheaded by the Road Transport Safety Agency- under the banner; “We Are ALL Pedestrians”.  The agency sought to educate pedestrians on how to protect themselves against road traffic accidents. In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly declared the first-ever “Decade of Action for Road Safety” which paved the way for a declaration and action plan adopted by the African Heads of States in January 2012; which brought the challenge of road safety to the forefront of development.

Meanwhile, it remains an open secret that Zambia has one of the worst road traffic accidents record in the world; just short of being declared a national disaster. According to the Zambian Road Safety Trust, a total number of 4,211 persons died due to road traffic accident in the last two years alone, with many others left in helpless conditions due to road traffic injuries. Sorrowfully, among that statistic is one grade 9 boy I was teaching at a school I am serving at in Kafue district of central Zambia who was killed by a car as he was cycling to school early in the morning. Sad memories of the loss of the late bright boy.

The majority of those affected by road traffic accidents are the vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, with a good number being school children.  Road traffic accidents lead to a burden in terms of deaths, injuries and related costs. Unfortunately there is a low priority to obviate the problem, in the same way that many people have lost their guard against road safety.  With the ever growing motorization, the picture in Zambia may even be worse if nothing is done.

What needs to be done?  I propose to make road safety education as part of the school curriculum. Road safety should not only be taught to drivers at a driving school but must include all citizens beginning with school going children.  With such an initiative, there would be the change (for the better) of mindset of road users, regardless of whether they are travelling on roads or pavements.

Evidence from a number of countries show that there can be dramatic success in preventing road traffic deaths and injuries when there is a coordinated, multi-sectoral responses to the problem; which should include the inclusion of more elaborate road safety lessons in the school curriculum.   Guaranteeing road safety may be difficult and long, due to many factors such as continued inadequate road safety institutional capacity, inadequate funding and weak technical leadership.  

We need to go beyond just Road Transport Safety Agency helping with children crossing the roads through the traffic wardens employed nationwide. The formulation of road safety school curriculum would prove relevant in reducing road traffic accidents as every citizen who has passed through school will have the basic data, information and knowledge on road safety- instead of leaving such road safety education provisions in the hands of the Zambia Police and the Road Transport Safety Agency only. School curriculum framework will help influence citizens’ behavior from childhood to adulthood as road users, by improving their knowledge of the causes and consequences of road traffic accidents, and how to avoid them.

In Zambia, it is even surprising to know that most people do not even know that the pedestrians must move on the right hand side of the road. Everything on the road for most pedestrians is a “changanya” affair.  You will agree with me that by learning about road safety in school, pupils can start to develop appropriate skills and knowledge that will help make them safer in the road environment.  It is my prayer that government will bend to this proposal in the love of seeing a reduction in road traffic accidents. Every Zambian from childhood must take a role to improve the safety of Zambia’s roads as individuals, and by working together. This can only be a realistic with education.

Road safety education is an important life skill that should be provided to children as early as pre-school, and continue through to the end of secondary school- with varying topics being covered depending on the age of the pupils.  For example, young children can be taught about holding hands with their parents when near the road, older children can be taught about wearing bicycle helmets, and teenagers can be taught about safe driving. Starting road safety education will hopefully mean that these children will have good attitudes and skills first as pedestrians and cyclists, and then, when they start driving.

This will also demand that teachers are also equipped about road safety education training from their respective teacher tertiary institutions so as to effectively deliver road safety education. The teachers could also give parents the information they may need to reinforce the lessons the pupils have been taught in school so that the “remedy” stands the taste of time.

I am aware that the introduction of a school curriculum framework on road safety will not end all road traffic accidents, but will surely provide a significant reduction in their occurrence as it is more likely that when equipped with road safety education Zambian citizens will develop a sense of responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others all the time.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pumulo is a Zambian educator, trade unionist and a writer on matters that relate to the education policy.  He also works with various education-based organisations such as the Zambian Teachers Forum.
Cell phone: +260-954-623860

1 comment:

  1. I think including road safety and traffic rules in school curriculum is a good move towards accident free community. I support this. I will also suggest this idea to our locality.

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