Children by their very nature are curious and could give anything to learn. In an article on The Huffington Post: “Hugging Our Inner Child, Not Our Chaos,” Yehuda Berg noted that as children, our imaginations are vibrant, and our hearts are open. We believe that the bad guy always loses and that the tooth fairy sneaks into our rooms at night to put money under our pillow. Everything amazes us, and we think anything is possible. We continuously experience life with a sense of newness and unbridled curiosity.
Children want to understand everything, and if introduced, safety would be inclusive. However, it is largely absent from school curricula in this part of the world. Many non-governmental organizations and professional safety groups have recently scaled up campaigns to inculcate basic trainings in first aid and emergency response in school children. World Safety Organization, Nigeria chapter, through its SafERR project and Trauma Care International Foundation through its Child Safety Awareness Campaign are few of such bodies.
However, without integrating safety modules into the national curriculum, the efforts of these bodies, as laudable as they may be, will hardly make the desire impact.
Infusing safety modules into the national curriculum on education has been one of the major calls by safety experts on child education. These calls have become more apt considering a report by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) that road accidents kill 260,000 children every year and injure 10 million more.
A child safety expert, Barrister Njideka Obi stated that the report by UNICEF on child safety is not being taken seriously by all concerned.
“It is worrisome that despite this alarming report, child safety on the road is not taken seriously. I have seen children of six years walking to school alone and crossing busy roads without an adult with them and some even take their younger ones to school and cross busy roads dragging two younger siblings along,” she said in her article titled, ‘Child road safety rules’ published in The Nation recently.
While Obi also indicated that parents have thrown caution in the wind while driving their children and find it difficult to obey the rules of child road safety, many experts are of the opinion that children would be able to caution errant parents if they (the children) were taught about safety in school.
The National Policy on Education revised in 2004 prides education in Nigeria as “an instrument par excellence for effecting national development”. But is it not desirable for the nation to spell out in clear and unequivocal terms the philosophy and objectives that underlie its investment in education?
Truth be told, our nation and the world at large is becoming more unsafe. Therefore, the country’s educational goals should be clearly set out in terms of their relevance to the needs of the individual and those of the society in consonance with the realities of our environment and the modern world.
On the need to entrench safety as a culture starting from our schools, Dr. Ena Tobor, who works with Trauma Care International Foundation said, “A six-year-old child abroad knows how to dial the emergency number.
“During our trainings, we ask the children what the emergency number, for Lagos State as an example, is and they say (the American) 911.
“That is to show that it is has been so programmed. If we don’t educate the younger generation, they may end up being like us at their age, without knowledge. That is why we go to schools and educate people, even the adults.”
In her article, ‘Child’s road safety rules’, Obi stated that it is unsafe for children below the age of 12 to sit in the front seat so as to prevent suffocation in the event of an accident where the air bag inflates and chokes children.
“Most parents are unaware of this danger and always argue ignorantly when stopped by road safety officials,” she said.
If safety modules were introduced in schools, knowledgeable children would be able to guide their parents to observe such safety practices.
Obi further explained that the government should as a matter of urgency ensure that laws which uphold road safety guidelines are extended to children.
“Lagos State Safety Commission initiated a school safety project, which is aimed at ensuring school safety culture and compliance, school buses are not spared as steps are being taken to make sure that the school buses comply with the road safety rules or the school will be sanctioned. This is highly commendable and I urge them to keep up with the good work.
“The Federal Road Safety Commission claims that it has laws that protect children on the road but it appears the law is not properly implemented.
“Parents have thrown caution in the wind while driving their children; they find it difficult to obey the rules of child road safety. Some act out of ignorance and some are just out right disobedient to simple driving rules.
“Most Nigerians are ignorant about road safety of children, so it is necessary to take the awareness to the grassroots, so that everyone would be aware of it,” she stressed.
On the need for infusion of safety modules into school curriculum, safety expert and school administrator, Miss Ike Aigbogun, said some subject contents already have elements of safety like fire safety, first aid and working safely in laboratories, but it is not enough.
The Graduate Member of IOSH, said, “Some has security education. Although not enough but I think the government is ready to infuse safety into the curriculum since a little of it is already there- although restricted to some classes and levels. How ready? Not sure.”
Aigbogun, who runs a platform educating school owners about school safety, said some private schools in Lagos were already working towards being safety compliant.
She therefore called on the government to focus first on providing basic infrastructure for public schools as a matter of urgency before beaming its searchlight on private schools.
“I have been to a few schools and the government has not been involved with them.
“I am sure of their involvement in public schools which I believe should be their primary focus rather than private schools because of their lack of basic necessities and infrastructure.
“I have heard of public schools without seats for the children with many sitting on floors. It is sad. If you can’t take care of all the public schools in your care, then, why have them?”
“I know the government is trying to get school safety sorted but I won’t say I know for sure what their plans are or if their plans are valid and doable,” she quipped.
According to her, people will only buy into accepting safety as a way of life if they are made to see the need for it.
She noted, “If people don’t understand why safety is important, forcing it on them will make no difference. All we will have is a host of irrelevant paperwork and too much ticked boxes”.
In a chat with Safety Record Newspaper, Director of Research, Lagos State Safety Commission, Mrs. Ronke Odeneye said the commission was already working on safety modules in schools.
“The safety modules in vocational schools are controlled by Lagos State Vocational Education Board (LASVEB) in the five technical colleges. We have already submitted contents on the nursery and primary school to the Curriculum Department of Ministry of Education so that they can put it in the propositions and proposals.
“We have added our content and approved and we have corrected it and moved it to the Ministry of Education Curriculum Department and as I speak we are incorporating it and making it a mandatory list of books for students to have in schools.”
Responding to a question on safety awareness for school staff in Lagos, Odeneye said, “At the Ministry of Education, we have safety ambassadors that train so that they can know how to recognize hazards and control it and also cascade that training downward. We also train principals, vice principals, and head teachers in schools and give them our documentation.”
Commenting on the commission’s school safety audit project, Odeneye said it was expected to correct safety infractions and help schools to be more proactive on emergency preparedness and procedures. One of the issues, she said, is that of the muster point.
“The audit has started,” she said.
She stressed, “Safety is about being proactive and it is not a radioactive one like the emergency which is happening and you want to stop it from happening.
“You have to put in a basic infrastructure for safety to prevent issues from happening. A lot has been done and there is still room for improvement and as they (schools) get more awareness, they get trained, and they get better and comply.
“In complying, it becomes a culture and our motto is to make safety a lifestyle.”