The traffic police in the Goa state charged more than 7.5 lakh people with violation of traffic rules during the year 2018. It is noteworthy that the total number of vehicles in Goa is 15 lakh, while the total population of the state, according to the last Census, is also around 15 lakh!
Obviously, it is a big challenge to enforce traffic and road safety rules in this tiny state. In such a situation, a school in the region, has offered to join hands with the traffic police in tackling this challenge. This is the Government Higher Secondary School at Honda in Sattari tehsil, about 30 km from the capital, Panaji.
The school has decided not only to create the right atmosphere for road safety, but has also started training students so that they become responsible citizens in future and skilfully maintain a smooth traffic.
A special feature is that the efforts towards creating awareness about road safety are not confined to the speeches of experts. Instead, the school chalks out a comprehensive project keeping in view the entire school session. According to a school teacher Sulochana Barajankar, she had begun by introducing the students to the traffic conventions and rules with the help of sketches and videos. She followed it up with an initiative, worth emulating by other schools.
Sulochana says she has already screened more than 60 videos for the students in this session. The screenings help the students to easily understand how indiscipline during traffic can be dangerous and how it can cause various accidents.
But Sulochana has not stopped just here. She has been organising two or three sessions a week throughout the last year to ensure that the students are well-informed about traffic issues. A feature of the sessions is that the students participate in various types of constructive activities and produce useful source material during the course of these sessions.
Cashing in on the opportunity
The move to sensitise people about traffic awareness through school projects is actually the effect of the Mulyavardhan-ECE programme. The school, established in 1995, has a total of 254 students from the fifth to tenth standards. The school has ten teachers, with Sheetal Kadam as its head-mistress. Four teachers work under the ECE programme. They were trained in a programme at SCERT Parvari, Goa in July 2018. Since then, they have been working non-stop on ushering in a change for the better in the fields like traffic awareness, garbage disposal and cleanliness.
The nearly 6,000 population of Honda town consists mainly of lower middle class families. Most of them are daily wage earners, shop-keepers or lower cadre staff in government departments. The children of these families study in the government-run English medium school.
Move to sensitise the entire community
Sulochana Barajankar works on traffic awareness programmes. Sharing her experience, she says, “traffic is one of the major pressing issues facing Goa. It was a big opportunity for me. I thought I can benefit by sensitising myself on this issue and then try to sensitise children, my teacher- colleagues and also the entire community.”
She says, “Often, we are not alert on issues like traffic even though we know a lot about them. Those who join this program with a view to following the traffic rules and regulations, therefore, experience a sense of great responsibility, just as I do.”
The head-mistress Sheetal Kadam feels that it is important that the children have started thinking on their own, after the launch of the road safety programme. Their constructive approach has been evident on many occasions since then. “Children have prepared source material on the subject that can be displayed. In addition, they have composed poems, devised slogans, prepared posters and staged plays. In a way, the programme has given a boost to positive actions on part of the children,” she says.
Children here have prepared many beautiful models depicting the traffic in cities. A teacher Shailaja Patil shows these models, saying, “These have been made by students from eighth to tenth standards. You can see that the children have shown the traffic signs and signals, to be followed around schools and hospitals, in a nice way through pictures.”
Novel experiments by children
The teachers have received full cooperation from the school management in the traffic awareness project. As a result, the school had invited traffic officers twice, to satisfy the curiosity of the children on the issue.
The teachers said that they also organised a four-lane traffic activity during the session and asked the children to photograph it. They participated in a discussion with the children during the exhibition of these photographs, to improve their understanding of high-density traffic.
The cycling activity has been reduced almost to nil these days. As a result, most people in general, apart from children, are ignorant about the traffic regulations for cycling. The school organised an independent session on the subject. Sulochana says, “Some children came to the school on their bicycles from home. They practised cycling in accordance with the traffic rules, in the vicinity of the school. We discussed these rules with the children during the activity and answered all their queries.”
According to a teacher Smita Desai, such activities have led to sensitising not only the children on these issues but also their family members. Family members of the children had participated in a road safety rally organised by the school recently, she said.
Children themselves say what is right or wrong
Children also can now present their viewpoint with full confidence and responsibility. Sakshi Gavkar of the std. IX explains each traffic rule in all the details and says that she will follow all the rules when she drives a car after growing up. Sneha Gavkar says that she keeps telling people about traffic regulations, about which they often are ignorant.
Ajit Gawde from the std. VI says that whenever he sees a person violating traffic rules, he talks to the person and tries to explain what s/he has done wrong.
And finally, Khushboo Prajapati says that she knows the meaning of every colour used in traffic signals. In her own words, “I wish to join the traffic police for a day, to help them in their work.”