Botswana's First Lady leads safe school journey launch
A programme in Botswana to provide children and youth with a safe school journey is set for further expansion as a leading example of combatting road traffic injury in Africa.
The First Lady of Botswana, Neo Masisi joined Child Health Initiative Global Ambassador Zoleka Mandela and the FIA Foundation at Diphetogo Primary in Gaborone to launch new infrastructure designed to prevent road traffic injuries and fatalities around the school.
It is the latest project of its kind coordinated and implemented by the Amend NGO following earlier work at schools in Botswana to provide safe journeys for child pedestrians. Road traffic injury is the leading killer of school-age children and adolescents in Botswana. Around the Diphetogo alone, 14 children and adolescents have been injured over the past three years.
First Lady of Botswana Neo Masisi gave her support to the initiative, emphasising that it is a fundamental right for children to be given a safe journey to and from school. Speaking at the Diphetogo Primary launch she said:
“I think of my own daughter and going to school is the most important journey of her life. And yet for far too many, this journey is costing them their lives and indeed costing their education when injured.
“We must not accept speeds of over 30 km/h near our schools. Over this speed and their lives are at risk. It should be a given that our children are protected.”
Joining the First Lady, Zoleka Mandela said: “This is a great opportunity. Botswana has the chance to lead the way in ensuring that every single child is kept safe on the way to school. You can be a shining light in our region. Like my children at home, the kids here at Diphetogo deserve a bright future. All of our children do. The project here demonstrates exactly what needs to be done, we can – and we must –prevent road traffic injury, this leading killer of young people.”
Zoleka Mandela emphasised that initiatives such as this road safety programme in Botswana should be given a priority as a solution for adolescent health which Governments and donors could support through a global adolescent summit. She has been advocating globally for such a summit with the Child Health Initiative and partners.
FIA Foundation Deputy Director Avi Silverman also spoke at the launch. “Our partners here in Botswana are implementing the solutions that we know are proven to save lives and combat road traffic injury. What’s needed is political commitment and financing to bring these solutions to scale. Every single child should have a safe journey to school. No young person should be denied their future by the scourge of road traffic injury. Governments and the international community can act, and they must.”
In Botswana local NGO partner the Society of Road Safety Ambassadors has worked with Amend to implement safety measures around the school.
Jeffrey Witte, Executive Director of Amend said: “Every day, thousands of children are killed and injured on Africa’s roads. But we know how to prevent these injuries. Safe infrastructure in school areas and the enforcement of 30 km/h speed zones around schools saves lives. The steadfast support of safe school zone efforts by the Puma Energy Foundation and the FIA Foundation demonstrates their vision and passion to tackle the leading cause of death and disability for children in Africa: road traffic injury. We are deeply grateful for their partnership.”
Maatla Otsogile, Coordinator of SORSA said: “Children represent the future and hope of our nation. That is why it is bad news that we are continuing to lose them in road crashes. They face grave risks just walking to and from school every day. What we need now are solutions, and that is what FIA Foundation, Puma Energy Foundation, Amend and SORSA has sought to do through this infrastructure improvements which are geared towards promoting safe and healthy journey to school for every child.’
iRAP is also involved, with the initiative using the ‘Star Ratings for Schools’ methodology to assess the level of safety around the schools and help identify where safe road infrastructure is required. The objective is to slow traffic speeds to 30 km/h or below and to protect child pedestrians with measures such as safe crossings, sidewalks and road humps.
It is also part of Amend’s programme across 10 African countries supported by the FIA Foundation and the Puma Energy Foundation. In Botswana, the work is set to be extended to further schools with FIA member club, Emergency Assist 991 also collaborating on the initiative.