(This article appears at the United Nations Youth Wing on Road Safety Website: http://www.youthforroadsafety.org/activities/news/news_item/t/brian_s_column_making_road_safety_sexy_is_crucial_for_learning)
Thursday, 7 June 2012 , Brian Bilal Mwebaze
In his regular column giving us a unique insight into road safety in Africa, Brian Mwebaze writes today’s article on the importance of making road safety a subject that is appealing and attractive to young people. Based on his own experience of a recent workshop, Brian offers a solution to avoiding the traditional means of learning and making education ‘sexy’.
Yep, That’s correct! (English) Oui, C’est ca Exactement!(French) هذا هو الصحيح (Arabic) Eso es correcto!(Spanish) Det er korrekt! (Danish) Isso é correto ! (Portuguise) …Sorry for those whose languages don’t appear here! Iam not trying to create a language traffic accident lol but we are talking about Road Safety being Sexy?!Woohoo….Kinda exciting huh?
On the weekend of 27th May 2012, I had a chance to participate as an observer in our regional road safety campus safety awareness workshop. In attendance of course were our East African Red Cross Youth Campus Programme Superstars (pictured below). These 23 superstars work as focal point contacts for the universities and selected schools in the East African region. Our organization had hired a consultant to run the session. So, now you understand why I requested to be in and learn a tip from the consultant!
The 23 Uganda Superstars taking part in the workshop for road safety.
In a flash, he came in with a well prepared agenda. He had a cool Prezi presentation with technicalities cutting across road design, visibility, pre and post crash care, the mechanics of injury and crashes…woo! It was quite exciting, After that the presentation, he took the 23 man squad on the road and demonstrated what he meant during the theory session<<<something you must credit the guy.
He later after a series of theory and practice gave a written evaluation test.. However, our superstars struggled to answer correctly because they didn’t have time to read, prepare and assimilate the learned information…you get the idea right? You could see their faces and feel a little sorry for them. But you see, the organization hadn’t paid cheaply this guy…plus, he was doing his job!
In many cases, when young people take part in workshops on a voluntary basis, most young people do not want to be back in a schoolike setting with a classroom set up. Avoiding a lecturing type scenario is therefore crucial.
Meanwhile in the far corner where I was sitting, I was thinking, this aint cool bro, is it? Our superstars are University and School students. I am sure when they got the invitation, they thought it was going to be different from the class environment type. After the session, I did an evaluation and one consistent outcome from the respondents was “…not sexy session …” ‘SEXY?” (jaw drop)…”Really?” But…I didn’t get the point. I was dipping my head into sand to find out the best way of approaching this. How could we send real messages home? How could we make sure that the road safety messages stick into these young minds brains …it was a moment of thinking and thinking. …little did I know the answer was around the corner.
On a fresh Sunday morning while at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport waiting for my connection flight to Brussels then Geneva for the UNAIDS presentation on the global youth reproductive health services and rights outcomes from the CrowdOutAIDS campaign…I remembered something! Over 5000 global young voices participated in this campaign in a short time. But what made them get so interested? What made them consistently turn up and respond to the questions that were being asked? What made them turn up the next day?
The Crowd Out Aids Campaign spoke the language of young people making the ownership of the program in the hands of the young participants.
It must have been about the need to know more information about their reproductive health rights? It should have been their inner passion to make a good contribution to ensuring zero HIV new infections. But, also, it could have been because some of them are young people living with HIV. No..Not that alone…as I found out in the final report that I wrote that very night, it was because the approaches used under CrowdOutAIDS were sexy!
The approaches spoke the language of the youth! The CrowdOutAIDS used tailor-made approaches holding online sessions for the urban youth and offline sessions for the rural youths. Materials were pretested in the language of all targeted groups. In the same way, I would say “If its sports that youth engage in, formulate programs that provide information about road safety through sports; if its Broadway shows, incorporate information on road safety in the shows; if the youth hang around malls, put up promotional posters with road safety information; get celebrities in your district/village that are idolized by the youth to support causes on road safety even by being Goodwill ambassadors and reach out to their fans or subjects; if it’s the language of iPods, make applications that can be downloaded on iPods; if it’s through X-box or Wii, make games that provide information on road safety; if their language is texting, sell this idea to communication companies in your country to send some road safety tips as texts and encourage young people to share stories freely (just not while driving). You get my point, make the education relevant, appealing and engaging to the language young people are speaking today.
The Youth and Road Safety Action Kit was produced in a way that would be attractive to young people – the kind of approach that we should always take when targeting young people with a road safety message.
Just like my local town bus company, put a slogan that reads like ‘Your Safety Is Our Safety" The public transport system fairly penetrates the rural areas and could be a cool platform to get to rural youth!
In conclusion, I took a step back and thought, ‘How can we make road safety sexy?’, then it hit me; this is what YOURS does everyday. From their cool website design, the amazingly attractive Youth and Road Safety Action Kit and the clear depiction of ‘fun learning’ in their recent road safety workshops.
YOURS’ workshop in Oman was reflective of a interactive and youth friendly learning environment – see more in videos attached.
By engaging with young people on their level, we have to be prepared to test what works and use facilitators that can connect with young people based on their own social, cultural and community contexts. This way, we can open a dialogue of active learning rather than creating a classroom situation where young people feel they are being lectured once again, bearing in mind that most of these workshops take place out of the formal education arena.