Following several road crashes involving students in rural Jamaica, which made headlines in recent years, calls were made to increase awareness about road safety and mobility issues, such as “overloading and speeding,” within the affected school communities.
As part of these efforts, rural high schools have been signing up to include the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA) Junior Clubs in their roster of extra-curricular activities.
“To date, more than 33 JAA Junior Clubs have been established, and 21 clubs are located in rural parishes, as school administrators acknowledge the need to educate students about road safety,” Duane Ellis, General Manager of the JAA, announced recently.
He said that the JAA Junior Club, is an initiative of the Auto Club in collaboration with the Jamaica National Building Society Foundation, JN General Insurance (JNGI) Company Limited, The Ministry of Education, the FIA Foundation and the FIA Road Safety Grant Programme.
Mr. Ellis welcomed the response from students and Faculty Advisors at education institutions, such as St. Thomas Technical High School and Vere Technical High School.
Laura Bloomfield-Levy, Acting Principal of the St Thomas Technical High School said the JAA Junior Club was a timely initiative that will improve safety measures for students in the Golden Grove community in the parish.
As the safety and security coordinator at the school, she pointed out that students currently face a lot of risks on the roads just outside the school, “Even at the school gate sometimes drivers don’t seem to notice that there is a school here; and, we have cases where our students have been hit by motor vehicles,” she explained, “and I notice that drivers tend to speed up when they are on the good sections of the road.”
The more than 1,500 students at the school are encouraged to be part of at least one extracurricular activity; and, already more than 26 have joined the JAA Junior Club.
Among them is sixth form student, Yanique Ricketts, who said she joined to play her part in reducing the number of students that are killed on the roads annually.
“I am looking forward to educating drivers in our community about safer driving and using their seatbelts,” she said, adding that two of the main focuses will be on, “buses that are overloaded and bus drivers who drive very fast on the roads.”
Faculty Advisor for the JAA Junior Club and Teacher, Nicholas Brevitt, said students will benefit from the work of the club especially as it relates to proper road use.
“Some students don’t know how to use the road, hence they sometimes walk six abreast with their backs to oncoming traffic,” he pointed out, “And, it is hoped that the club will address these and other road safety issues at the club meetings.”
Mr. Brevitt stated that one of the first major undertakings will be to build a sidewalk, or walkway from the school leading to Golden Grove to better accommodate students who traverse the roadways to and from the school. And, a proposal has been made in this regard.
Over in Clarendon, students at the Vere Technical High School have also embraced the JAA Junior Club as part of their extra-curricular programme, and 21 students are already signed up as members.
Sherina Anderson, Faculty Advisor for the JAA Junior Club said members are excited about the prospects of the club in helping students to become better road users. Like their counterparts in St Thomas, the JAA Junior Club members at Vere acknowledged the problem of poor road use by students as a major concern.
“The club members plan to encourage students to become better road users,” Miss Anderson said, “and, we are discussing ideas to raise awareness for road safety through group talks, films, and actual road safety demonstrations.”
Students will also create and place signs with road safety messages at various locations on the school grounds.
Mr. Ellis stated that more than 50 JAA Junior Clubs are to be established in schools across the island before the end of the current school year; and, the roll out will continue into the New Year.