South Africa's road safety mascot, Bongie, the Buckle-up Buddy, is going around the nation's schools, teaching kids about road safety. Here's his little dance!
Bongie visited the Parent24 office and showed us some moves. With him was Tebogo Makofane, spokesperson of Imperial Road Safety, who told us all about the Safe Scholars awareness campaign they're running in primary schools.
It all started in 2012, after Tebogo's own daughter was tragically knocked over and killed in a road accident. It's still very emotional for him to talk about, but he says it drives his passion to teach young children about road safety.
They first rolled out the road safety awareness programme in Soweto, Johannesburg, where they visited 100 different schools and taught little ones the basics, including Bongie's dance. Soweto's different neighbourhoods are all connected by big main roads, says Tebogo, and it was imperative that children understood they had to have respect for the road.
"I always tell them: when I was little, there were no parks, there was no other place for us to play but in the road," he explains. "But today, kids have so many choices. I teach them they can play in these 4 places: the school, at home, in parks, and in designated play areas. It's a big no to play one-ball - or any game - in the street."
Today, Safe Scholars has visited nearly 1,000 primary schools and reached almost a million children, all across South Africa.
Tebogo and Bongie teach children about safe places to cross the road: zebra crossings, scholar patrols, and green traffic lights. "We always ask the children where the road crossings are in their school's vicinity. Some kid will pipe up: 'at the Pick n Pay!'. So we help them to identify safe crossings on their journey to school.
"We also teach them to never cross in-between cars when these are backed-up in traffic, like at a four-way stop. Don't walk in front of a car, and don't walk behind it. Children are small and can often not be seen by drivers. They must wait until all traffic is gone before they cross – and that's only if there is no zebra crossing along the road."
The green light/red light game
To engage the kids and test their listening skills, Tebogo plays this little game with them: He calls out "Shaya izandla!", meaning "clap your hands" but here signifying a green light, and the children respond by clapping a simple rhythm. He will repeat this a few times, then suddenly call out "Vala!" (meaning "close" or "stop") – now they have to clap only once, and let their fingers pretend to be "raindrops" falling on their heads while they wait for him to call out a command again. Tebogo says it's great fun and some teachers have adopted this idea for the classroom too.
What they also do is hand out reflective sashes to those kids who walk to school, often in the dark or rainy conditions, and so far they've distributed nearly 50,000 of these. "Sash" is not a familiar word for many kids, so Tebogo says he calls it the child's "safety belt". "We say, whether you're in the car or walking along the road, you should always wear a safety belt, and they love that," he says.
In the car
Tebogo also teaches kids about car safety. They must always:
- wear their seat belts;
- tell mommy or daddy to put down their cellphones and make-up;
- and not distract the driver.
Here is the simple dance you can teach your children to help them cross the road safely. Note that it's "look right, look left, look right". Tebogo says people often get it the wrong way around, but oncoming traffic will always be from the right-hand side of the road first.
Has Bongie visited your child's school yet? Do you remember the Daantjie Kat mascot of road safety when you were a child? If you're a teacher, how do you teach road safety to your learners? Let us know! email@example.com.