Green, Amber, Red: Student Road-Safety Teams in oPt
By Monica Awad
JERUSALEM, 4 June 2005 - On a Monday morning, 30 professionals from various ministries, district offices and non-governmental organizations were seated in a training hall discussing road-traffic safety measures in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
Seated among them - almost inconspicuously - were six young girls adorned in orange jackets and caps. Kiyafa, a 12-year old girl student from the Abu Kash road-traffic safety team, spoke about the important role students can play in road-traffic safety measures.
With poise and confidence in her voice, Kifaya said: “Since the beginning of the school year, our team has been able to protect our fellow students from road-traffic accidents.” As a result of Israeli-imposed restrictions on access and closures, Abu Kash has become the main route that links the main city of Ramallah with all surrounding villages.
The road-traffic safety team participated in a training programme on road-traffic safety measures. Fatimah, the teacher at Abu Kash School who accompanied the road-traffic safety team to the workshop included six hours of practical training on the road. The training was carried out by experts from the Ministry of Transport in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE).
Each participating school in the road safety campaign trained two groups of students, with a team leader. Each team is comprised of six students. Two students hold and manage the stop sign, two manage the whistles, and one support student helps younger or disabled students cross the street. All members of the team wear a bright orange jacket and bright orange or yellow cap that are visible from a distance.
Kifaya, whose name means 'enough,' supervises the way her peers manage the road traffic, and jots down the names of students who violate the road safety team’s instructions and submits them to the school principal for action. “At the beginning of the campaign, I used to jot down many names because our peers did not take us seriously. But for the past three months there was no need to jot down even one name they realized the importance of our role.”
Watching the team in action is like watching an orchestra playing harmonious music flowing smoothly. Said Kiaya: “I enjoy my role as a team member. I feel I gained a sense of responsibility, attributes of leadership and principles of empowerment.”
Teacher Fatimah says, as a result of their primary involvement in the road-traffic safety campaign, the school grades of Kifaya and others have improved, due to their sense of responsibility and active participation in their society.
The road-traffic safety campaign is part of the life skills based education project aimed at equipping students with vital skills such as empowerment, a sense of responsibility, the ability to participate positively in their society. It is part of the global child-friendly schools concept.
At the local level, the MoEHE - with the technical support from UNICEF and in cooperation with various ministries and non-governmental organizations - is currently implementing the road safety campaign in 85 schools in three phases.
The first includes research through conducting a knowledge, attitude and practices survey of students and community at large. The second component includes training of more than 1700 students, 170 teachers.
The third component aims at equipping schools with needed materials for the 340 road-traffic safety teams of students as well as materials for the drawing contests, songs and story telling for the participating schools. All of this would not have been possible without the generous contribution of Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).