‘We are all winners in keeping children safe’

Themba Baloyi, director at Discovery Insure, Mogamat Fuad Roopen, Shenaaz Raiman, executive director at Childsafe and Professor Sebastian van As, a trauma surgeon at Red Cross War Memorial Childrens Hospital and president of Childsafe, in front of the minibus.

The safe driving habits of Mogamat Fuad Roopen, 65, has earned him top honours and a minibus worth R395000 in the Childsafe SA’s Safe Travel to School Programme.

Mr Roopen, from Colorado Park, Mitchell’s Plain, was chosen as the safest driver in the programme at an event held at the Dulcie September (Athlone) civic centre on Thursday November 30.

He is among more than 600 drivers in the Childsafe programme who provide school transport to about 8000 children across Cape Town.

Other winners include the second runner-up, David Margeman from Kraaifontein, and the first runner-up, Johan Badenhorst from Ravensmead.

William Anthony from Bellville, was the most improved driver and Gallor Solomons is the runner-up for the most improved driver.

The drivers are part of a comprehensive programme that uses a range of interventions to bring about driver behaviour change, with the aim of securing greater safety for pupils as they travel to school and back every day. The programme is a Childsafe/Discovery Health initiative.

Mr Roopen said he started driving children to school when the company he worked for closed down more than six years ago. He could not contain his emotions when it was announced that he was the winner of the minibus.

“I drive a Toyota Venture at the moment. I am in shock. I’ve been driving the children for six years now, and I enjoy it so much,” he said.

The programme’s interventions include: checking vehicles for roadworthiness, installing a tracking device that monitors driving behaviour, drivers are scored and their results analysed and tabulated, drivers’ eyes are tested and they receive spectacles where needed, training them in first aid and defensive driving, and giving the safest drivers quarterly incentives.

One of the tracking device installers, Mogamat Eksteen, said he drove past Mr Roopen on the morning before the awards ceremony, and somehow knew he would take top honours.

“Ek het baie duah gemaak vir hom (I prayed for him a lot.) I told my wife he would win,” Mr Eksteen said.

Linda Mpani, who was the first winner since the implementation of the programme three years ago, said being part of it, had brought about many positive changes in his life.

“When I joined in 2014, I had lots of doubts. We went for first aid training and defensive driving. There have been lots of incentives and events, and I always won. All this encouraged my driving behaviour to keep our children safe on the roads. When I won in 2015, it changed my life. I could provide a better service for our children. We didn’t join Childsafe to win, but we are all winners when it comes to keeping our children safe,” Mr Mpani said to a roaring applause.

Childsafe SA is a campaign of the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of SA (CAPFSA) – founded in 1978 to promote a healthy, safe environment for children. Operating as Childsafe with the motto, “Keep kids free from harm”, the organisation has been a leading force in documenting child trauma, gathering information from patients at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.

This trauma database is the largest of its kind in the world.

It allows the distribution of information and conducts essential research, participating in advocacy and educating parents, caregivers and community workers at a more efficient and effective level.

The Safe Travel to School Programme was launched in 2014 with fewer than 20 participants. In just three years, this number has grown to more than 600 drivers, who collectively transport some 8000 children each day, sometimes for long distances along hazardous traffic routes.

The drivers operate all over Cape Town ­- from Atlantis to Mitchell’s Plain, from Khayelitsha to the southern suburbs, as well as the northern suburbs.

The drivers of 17 special needs schools are also on the programme, driving children who are especially vulnerable.

Around 17000 people die on our roads every year – of these 3000 are children. Many more are injured, often very severely.