Johannesburg - Education authorities in Gauteng have revived a road safety awareness campaign for learners in schools situated in areas that are at high risk for car accidents.
Nearly 14 000 people are killed on South African roads every year, with 65% of the fatalities being pedestrians; almost half of these are children under the age of 15.
On Tuesday, Education MEC Barbara Creecy launched the road safety campaign at Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown. It includes 70 primary schools in the province, where learners - especially in the foundation phase - are being taught how to cross the road, interpret road signs, and to be generally aware of vehicles around them.
The campaign, which is a partnership between the department, 3M South Africa, Sci-Bono Discovery and the Provincial Department of Community Safety was first rolled out in 2008, targeting 30 schools.
This years' programme will include 3 493 learners and will be expanded in 2013 and in subsequent years.
Speaking at the launch, Creecy said the department had done a great deal over the last two years to improve learner safety by fencing schools; introducing safety patrollers and checking scholar transport. However, they have realised that looking after learners on school premises was not enough.
"We think it's important that we don't just educate learners on the curriculum but also give them knowledge and skills that will give them a better chance of success in their adult lives.
"We are grateful to this partnership. Our contribution as the department of education as well as our partners is to train young people who are going to educate our learners..." Creecy said.
She said the thinking behind using young people to teach learners about road safety was to make the exercise fun and interactive, instead of the learners being taught through lectures.
"Children have difficulty judging the distance of oncoming traffic because they are not very tall. It's also normal for children to be thinking about other things instead of focusing on the road. Very often, children are obscured to drivers because they are behind vehicles and it's important that we work with young people that they become very conscious of how they are behaving as pedestrians."
M3 Managing Director Len Moult said road accidents were the single biggest cause of accidental death among five to 14-year-olds.
"We need to teach our children how to be safe pedestrians. Young children are not always aware of the danger and should be given an opportunity to learn about road dangers," he said.
He added that the partnership would provide the opportunity for 200 000 learners to be educated and made more aware of road dangers. - SAnews.gov.za