THE Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisation (LCN) in partnership with Puma Energy Foundation and international road safety NGO – AMEND, launched the Child Road Safety Programme on Thursday at St Bernadette Primary School in Maseru.
The Child Road Safety Programme is meant to protect students from road traffic injuries and coordinate road safety education programmes.The campaign will be carried out in 16 schools whose learners have been victims of traffic accidents.
In attendance during the launch was Education and Training Deputy Minister Thabang Kholumo, Puma Energy Lesotho Sales Manager Victor Mashape, LCN Programmes Director Kanono Thabane and officials from the police among others.
During the launch, 500 reflector schoolbags and 3000 sets of colouring books were donated to the school.
Addressing the gathering, Mr Thabane said students were the most vulnerable to injuries and fatalities as they walked to and from school every day.
He said this year alone, seven children were injured due to road accidents while 18 endured a similar ordeal in 2015. Mr Thabane said most accidents affecting students were occurring at schools located near major roads such as St Bernadette.
“Students who attend schools such as St Bernadette, which are near major roads, are vulnerable to car accidents since traffic jams are a common occurrence,” he said.
“As a result, it becomes a challenge for the schoolchildren to navigate such roads while drivers are more often than not impatient,resulting in the accidents.”
In his remarks, Mr Mashape said when Puma Energy Lesotho entered the Lesotho market in October 2014, management was “taken aback” by the alarming rate of road traffic deaths in the country, “which stands at over 400 deaths per annum”.
“With our drivers making about 640 trips every month as they transport thousands of metric cubes of our products by road, we were drawn to promote safer roads in Lesotho,” he said.
“As we launch the Child Road Safety Programme, I would like to appeal to all road users, to help make roads safer for children by adhering to road rules set by the Road Safety Department.
“I particularly urge drivers to employ defensive drivingtactics and desist from dangerous driving, poor road craft, speeding, driving while intoxicated or fatigued and using mobile phones while driving.”
Mr Mashapealso implored the government and LCN to furnish roads close to schools with humps, traffic lights, clear markings and stationed road traffic officers as well as patrols.
“It would minimise road misbehaviour, thereby keeping children safe from road traffic crashes,” he said.
“To the administration of St Bernadette Primary School, I commend you on the comprehensive road safety education you are providing your students and encourage you to share your approach with other schools in the area.”
Mr Mashape added: “I also invite everyone to take part in this new project that will protect the lives of Basotho children. Let us share ideas, educate others and contribute what we can, no matter how small.
“Our efforts will only bring real and meaningful change when we join forces to curb this scourge that is robbing Lesotho of young lives.”
Zohra McDoolley-Aimone, who was representing Puma Energy Foundation Executive Director, Vincent Faber, at the occasion, said the initiative was much more than introducing a new child road safety campaign, but also about “planting a seed into Lesotho’s future”.
“Today is about reflecting on the road safety challenges Lesotho has been facing over the years, learning from them and jointly working towards improving road behavior to preserve the lives of the country’s youth,”Ms McDoolley-Aimone said.
“In particular, the 16 schools we will collaborate with here in Maseru have road traffic injury problems among their student population.
“All the schools have children who have been injured in road traffic in the past year. This is why the Puma Energy Foundation was keen to get involved, and deliver on its commitment to road safety and saving lives across the African continent.”
She saidthe PUMA Energy Foundation partnered with locally-based development NGOs to ensure lasting change in the areas of education and training, health and safety, and the environment.
“We strive to ensure that real, meaningful change is achieved through all the projects we support,” said Ms McDoolley-Aimone.
“In 2015, the Puma Energy Foundation supported 19 programmes with 18 partners across 23 countries, 62 percent of which were in Africa.
“Our story with AMEND started in 2014 when our parent company, PUMA Energy, partnered with them to coordinate road safety education programmes, improve pedestrian infrastructure, and conduct media and government advocacy around a school in Dar es Salaam.”
She added: “Following the success of this first pilot initiative in Tanzania, we have joined hands with AMEND to roll out a child road safety campaign, but this time on a much greater scale.
“This campaign now includes 10 African countries and will touch 115 000 school children across Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Senegal and Ghana. We are confident that these activities will bring about concrete results and improvements.”
On his part, Mr Kholumo said to ensure that children were protected from road traffic injuries, they intended to collaborate with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, LCN and other relevant stakeholders on road safety programmes.
“I want to assure the public that my ministry supports all measures taken in protecting children from exposure to road accidents and educating the children about road safety,” Mr Kholumo said.