Safe passage, Safe routes to school: a bold response to improve safety for Jamaica´s children

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A young student walks on a safe route to school.
Dahlia Bryan, a student of York Town Primary, Jamaica. Photo: Shunelle Nevers/JSIF


Ten-year-old Dahlia Bryan, a student of York Town Primary, located in a volatile and socially vulnerable peri-urban community in Clarendon, Jamaica, was shocked at the improvements when she returned to face-to-face school after being online for almost two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

When she looked in awe at the transformation of the road she takes to her school, she felt so amazed and excited about the beautiful rails, cartoons on the ground and sidewalk to protect them. Prior to the improvements, Dahlia´s journey to school was very dangerous. She recalls the fear she felt walking at the side of the road, while cars and trucks sped past her and the other students. They had to walk in straight line along the roadside, trying not to get hit by a car, and at the same time, avoiding the bushes that could tear their uniforms.

In many urban and rural communities in Jamaica, Dahlia’s experience is quite common. Pedestrians often compete with vehicles for the right of the way due to inadequate infrastructure . The situation is even more dangerous around the nation’s primary schools. 

The absence of physical road safety infrastructure, such as sidewalks, guardrails, road signs and markings, surrounding schools forces children walking to school to maneuver complex traffic conditions, which compromises their safety. 

A young student walks on a safe route to school.

According to the Road Safety Unit of the Ministry of Transport and Works, there has been a sharp increase in pedestrian fatalities during the past three years with the most deaths caused by people walking or standing in road . Additionally, fatal crashes and fatalities have both increased by 10% since the start of the year; January 2022 recorded the highest number of fatalities over the three-year period.                                                                                                                    

What is Safe Passage, Safe Routes to School?

The Safe Passage project was an intervention modeled from the American Safe Routes to School Initiative and tailored to fit the needs of the children in the Jamaican landscape. Safe Passage worked on improving safety of children commuting to schools through both physical and social actions and was completed during the school closures due to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021.

The initiative targeted key streets, thoroughfares and bus stops which are surrounding, near to, or on school campuses. The project included the rehabilitation or construction of critical infrastructure - sidewalks, bus bays, guardrails, road signs and markings - as well as comprehensive public education and road safety programs to include staff, students, and residents.

All these actions were part of the recently closed Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP), implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) with the support of the World Bank.  The aim of the ICDP was to increase access to basic infrastructure services including road networks, water and sewage system, solid waste management services. As part of the holistic renewal in the communities, advocacy for road safety and sidewalks became integral for the development of the basic community infrastructure . The project had a positive impact on 15 schools that directly benefited approximately 6,000 people in eight of the 18 ICDP communities.

How was Safe Passages implemented?

The strategic framework of the Safe Passage Project was based on a multipronged approach which emphasized the notion that by utilizing a holistic methodology, interventions would be more effective in realizing the goals of the program.

As a result, the project was implemented using a framework known as the 6’s E’s - Equity, Education, Engineering, Encouragement, Evaluation and Enforcement through which all activities were aligned. 

To support the framework and encourage sustainability, a community-driven development approach known as the Community Based Contracting Methodology (CBC) was also utilized. This methodology empowered the community to have greater autonomy over their project by being responsible for the management and execution, which included procuring goods and services, as well as labor from the community. 

The multi-stakeholder approach used in the implementation of this initiative led to strong participation in the project with encouraging results which can be institutionalized for greater impact. It was recognized from the onset that road safety is a complex issue which required multi-sectorial interventions ranging from community-level stakeholders to policymakers.  

The use of the community based contracting methodology fostered social cohesion, built social capital, and contributed to the process of community buy- in and ownership which was integral to the sustainability of the project.

Schools have reopened, and students are now enjoying the full benefits of the project. However there is more work to be done as the ICDP was only able to address 15 of the almost 760 primary education institutions in Jamaica (primary, all age, and primary & Junior high schools).

Addressing the risk of death and accidents in road traffic especially around schools is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) , specifically Goal 4: Quality Education and Goal 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities and contributing to the Vision 2030 Jamaica – National Development Plan.

Post-ICDP, the model is being replicated in three other JSIF-implemented projects to protect vulnerable children and youth and to contribute to safer communities nationally.


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