MALAWI - Road safety really, child’s play?
ROAD SAFETY – COMMITTED TO SAFER MOBILITY
In South Malawi, the district of Blantyre led a fun and practical road safety campaign in several primary schools, in partnership with Total. Effective, the initiative is changing children’s views and behaviour around the road hazards.
The road is a bigger killer than malaria
More than three quarters of all schoolchildren in Limbe walk to school. Some of them walk up to six kilometres every day to go and return from their classes, along the traffic-jammed roads of this town next to Blantyre, the country’s commercial capital.
“There is danger everywhere”, explains Evelyn Mjima, Education Manager for the district’s primary schools. “Accidents are frequent because children have to cross where there are no pedestrian crossings and no signs.”
In Malawi (18 million inhabitants), road accidents represent the main cause of death among young people from 5 to 29 years old. They kill more than malaria. The fight for road safety has therefore become a national priority. The authorities have set up several prevention programmes in schools in partnership with non-governmental organisations and companies. Total Malawi is actively involved in this process. The device designed in partnership with Road Safety Malawi, the Ministry of Education and the traffic police is helping raise awareness and educate 6-12-year olds in road safety over the long term. Total Malawi also contributes to improve infrastructure and renovate pedestrian crossings.
Responsible together !
Launched in the country in April 2014, this awareness-raising campaign has already reached over 8,000 children in five primary schools. This playful approach allows teachers to review with pupils the meanings of signage, existing risks and how to act in certain situations. It is also practical and sets out to integrate road safety into classroom lessons to make sure that the message is properly passed on long term. “We have been rolling out the initiative since March 2018 at Saint Kizito Boys Primary School and Saint Maria Goretti School, two schools in Limbe beside dangerous roads”, explains Evelyn Mjima. During the inauguration ceremony, police officers and a driver of the transport company Rashy Motors shared with pupils their experience of the road, the causes of accidents they have witnessed and how to act to avoid such tragedies.
Up until 2019, each intervention was based on the “Safety Cube”. This educational material provided in participating schools gave teachers and pupils several tools: course booklets, brochures, exercise books, quizzes, miniature road signs etc. However, to be able to cross roads safely, it is not enough to explain the general rules in the classroom. The feedback from the “Safety Cube” has enabled us to move our road safety strategy towards a more modular initiative that is better adapted to each context.
In Limbe, pupils no longer cross the road like they used to
In Limbe, a team of teachers has therefore been specially trained to assist young people locally in crossing the road without taking any risks. During rush hour in the morning and in the evening, this school patrol monitors traffic at pedestrian crossings and makes the most dangerous parts of the two busiest roads safer, equipped with reflective jackets and portable warning sign provided in Total’s “School Patrol” kit.
Towards safer mobility
“The children are enthusiastic because the teams give them responsibility and allow them to be directly involved in regulating traffic” points out Evelyn Mjima. “In a real-life situation, they learn how to act on the roads to ensure their safety. This programme is crucial, because recently an accident occurred where these patrols were not deployed.”
The road safety programme was recently extended to a third establishment in April 2019, Misesa Primary School in Blantyre. “It is essential to reach as many people as possible by directly changing practices on the roads, always in small groups”, she continues. “So gradually, we are setting up a first-rate network made up of enthusiastic schools and competent partners. Time is required in order to train the teams and take action on the roads. Nevertheless, this approach helps us provide effective protection for children. It also involves the commitment of other stakeholders to road safety.”
Pedestrians and cyclists, a key issue in Malawi
Since 2015, efforts to reduce accidents are multiplying. With several new measures, the authorities are fighting drinking and driving, speeding and the failure to comply with road signs: the police equipped with breathalysers, the blood alcohol limit set at 0.8 grams per litre of blood, an increase in speed checks, the use of radar cameras and the immediate confiscation of a driving licence in the event of a serious offence. According to the Malawi Police Service (MPS), the number of accidents nonetheless increased by 35% in 2018, but the number of people killed on the roads has remained stable. According to the latest WHO report, the country still has one of the highest road accident rates in Africa, with 31 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. This rate places the country in 7th position in Africa and 11th position internationally. Malawi is also the third most dangerous country for pedestrians, with a rate of 15.4 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, and the country with the second highest number of cyclists killed, with 5 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.
KEY FIGURES ROAD SAFETY IN MALAWI
- 8,000 children have beneficiated from this programme
- 3rd most dangerous country in the world for pedestrians
- 5 primary schools have deployed the campaign since 2014