Time to make roads safer for the African child

Time to make roads safer for the African child

By Stephanie Aketch

Education and the opportunities it affords our children has long been lauded as a reason for celebrating the African child. However, very rarely is thought given to how these very children make their way to and from school.

Road crashes, and particularly those involving children, are yet to be considered a crisis for the African Child. It is time for the Kenyan Parliament to do so through strong legislation that protects our children.

According to the National Transport and Safety Authority, 668 deaths were recorded in Nairobi,  with 497 of them being pedestrians in 2015. Have you ever questioned how many of these numbers were actually children walking to school?

Global data also tells us that for every child who dies from a road crash another four are permanently disabled and ten more are seriously injured. This has a direct impact on children’s lives, including their ability to attend school.

Road traffic injuries result in more than one million children each year having their education abruptly ended or severely disrupted.

From May 1 through October 12, 2015, social media platform Ma3Route mapped out road crashes involving students and school buses. They used Twitter to crowd-source traffic road-crash data posted by road users in Kenya to their Twitter handle @Ma3Route.

Within the aforementioned period, a total of 44 road crashes were reported on Ma3Route involving students or school vehicles. Twelve of these road crashes had reported fatalities. In fact, according to an article authored by Ma3Route, "of the 44 total road crashes, 11 involved students as pedestrians and six of the eleven had fatalities. In two cases, students were killed by the very school bus that had delivered them."

The article goes on to narrate how the remaining six fatal road crashes involved students in a vehicle, often a school bus, in a crash. It further explains how one crash where a lorry whose brakes failed hit a bus. Eight student fatalities were reported from this road crash.

If this many student fatalities are reported through a social media platform, one can only imagine how many more are left out because people have no access to smartphones or are not familiar with Twitter.

This entire statement can be summarized into one word:  underreporting. Not that people are obliged to report to Ma3Route, but indeed to the authorities. And as Kenyans, we owe it to our children to act on this reality.

Children’s voices are not always heard.  I can only hope that the silence in death of the eight students documented in this article will be loud enough to call our policy-makers to action. It is indeed time for the Kenyan Parliament to take action through strengthening the piece of legislation that protects our children, the Children’s Act.

By including strong provisions for safe speed limits around schools the Kenyan Government can stop children being killed or injured on their way to school. Let us not neglect our responsibility to ensure our children are safe on the roads.

Please listen and act.

The writer is a Project Manager, Road Safety at Handicap International Kenya-Somalia Programme. Twitter: @steffaketch

The statements and opinions expressed by the author on this page do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, viewpoints or official policies of the Road Safety Hub.