17 July 2015 – Exactly five months ago, the first ever scholar patrol pilot project was launched along the MR (8) Hhelehhele/Big Bend road.
Meant to curb the ever escalating road fatalities that occur on this particular route network, the Sincephetelo Motor Vehicle Accidents Fund (SMVAF) donated scholar equipment to seven (7) schools that are adjacent to this road.
Road Safety experts from neighbouring South Africa were invited to educate the children on how the patrol operates during its inception, with agents from the Fund observing its functionality weekly, to monitor and provide supervision to ensure the patrols are conducted accordingly.
With one month to go before the project attains its finality and a comprehensive report is presented to the SMVAF management on the viability of the project, we interviewed a number of prominent individuals who utilise this route daily, to ascertain their opinions on whether the patrol has realised its mandate of regulating traffic, improving speed calming and facilitating safe crossing of the road, whilst instilling awareness on young scholars on the importance of road safety.
Hans Steffen – Nkilongo Member of Parliament / Matata Group of Companies CEO – “I think this is a great initiative that is sure to save lots of lives. I usually see the kids on the side of the road at their schools in their reflective jackets and signage which in turn makes us slow down when approaching them. I would also advise the MVA Fund to benchmark with the schools in Zululand to see how they do their scholar patrols, but it would also be in the best interests of our children’s safety if the roads could consist of one and a half metre concrete strips on the sides of the roads as I have observed that the children still walk in the roads when travelling to school. Hopefully the MVA Fund could assist with funding such an idea together with other donors but I would like to commend Sincephetelo as they are doing a superb job in terms of child safety.”
Prince Mgebseni Dlamini – Ngculwini Chief – “I always say that prevention is better than cure. As an individual who grew up in this area and went to school here as well, I witnessed a number of horrific accidents in which we lost our young loved ones whilst they travel to and from school. I want to commend the MVA Fund for this initiative as ever since this project started, traffic accidents have decreased drastically and road safety is now a concern for us all as we are aware that as drivers we have to reduce our speed due to the scholar patrols ahead. I would also like to extend a plea to the Road Safety Council to maintain and create more speed humps where necessary and to ensure that the zebra crossings and lines are visible at all times. Lastly, I would like the MVA Fund to venture into community road safety education and can assure that the people of Ngculwini are ready to be educated.”
Masiko Dlamini – Ngculwini Resident / Director of Foresight Investments – “As a community member, parent and vehicle driver, my observation is that we have lost a number of lives on this road because of excessive speeding. Before the inception of this scholar patrol, our children were at risk when travelling to school but now, because we see them daily on the road in their patrolling attire accompanied by the patrol signage, we as drivers are constantly reminded to reduce our speed even when late for work since we are aware that there are children crossing the road. As a parent, I would commend my peers to allow our children to be part and parcel of this initiative because they learn how to comprehend traffic signs and also learn responsibility. Lastly, I plea to drivers to carry on disengaging speed on this road so that the patrol continues to be accident free.”
Lindiwe Matsenjwa – Head Teacher Phonjwane Primary School – “Road Safety is a subject that we strive to enforce here at our school. We would like to thank the SMVA Fund for this initiative as this is complementing the work being done internally at school. I always tell my children to be careful and take care of themselves when on the road as a person only has one life to live and they shouldn’t restrain this life by being irresponsible when on the road.”
Muzi Maphanga – Ministry of Public Works and Transport Road Safety Planner – “The scholar patrol project is a very good road safety initiative. It guarantees a safe crossing for the vulnerable road users who are mostly school children. Although some of the motorists have started warming up to the idea, others still have the perception that the patrol delays them, with a smaller percentage consistently complying with the signals. Although the police are on board, I think their participation needs to be formalised with the Police Head Quarters because this exercise is very dangerous without police involvement. We need to continuously sensitise all road users as well as the scholar patrollers themselves in order to achieve a smooth patrol on a continuous basis and I personally feel that the supervisors of the patrol who are constantly assisting teachers and children on the road should be compensated for their contributions as it is possible that a number of them are unemployed. Otherwise I suggest that more public education be carried out on the scholar patrols and as a ministry we are ready to assist with a number of initiatives in which we are in communication together with our stakeholders.
Helmon Vilakati – Sincephetelo MVA Fund CEO / Road Safety Council Chairman – “Sincephetelo MVA Fund is generally concerned about the safety of school going children on all our roads. Our observation pointed out that most of the schools were closely located to the road and therefore the pupils were always vulnerable to traffic accidents especially when they cross the road to and from school. This observation gave impetus to the need for an intervention that seeks to minimize the risk. One of such roads is the Hhelehhele – Big Bend road, which has over 16 schools on the peripherals of the road. We therefore decided to collect a quick data of the traffic volumes using that road and also, data of pupils registered in each of these schools. We were duly informed that traffic is very heavy on that road especially in the mornings and that 7000 pupils are exposed to traffic accidents on every school day. Statistics also indicated that a number of children were killed, maimed and injured along the very road, hence the birth of the scholar patrol.
Our mandate is clear in as far as road safety is concerned; along with our stakeholders, we are tackling the bull by the horns. We are monitoring the exercise closely and whilst we can spot shortcomings, we are pleased nonetheless of the progress mapped in this short space of time.”