Photo: Child Health and Mobility

The Institute for Development Studies (IDS), University of Nairobi, Kenya

Spotlight on... Children and urban mobility

We interviewed Dr. Anne Wairimu Kamau, Research Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), University of Nairobi who is Project Leader for the exploratory research project Urban Spaces Design, Mobility and Transport Safety of Children: A Comparative Study of Nairobi and Kumasi Cities.

  • Please tell us a bit about your project and why this topic is urgent.
  • Children are among the vulnerable road users in Kenya and Ghana, and are greatly affected when urban spaces are not designed to accommodate children travel needs and safety. In both countries, children are often victims of road accidents, and they experience challenges during travel to school and to other places. In some cases, children travelling to school are denied access in public transport or are forced to travel while standing if they cannot pay full adult fare, thus compromising their safety. The use of motorcycles is common in Kenya and Ghana, even as a mode to school transport, further compromising children safety. The design of roads and other infrastructure like crossings and intersections play an important role in contributing to children safety.
  • Our project looks at policies and regulation, children’s travel needs and mobility options and how safe the current transport system is for children. Finally, we will be exploring options for promoting safe access and mobility for children in these cities.
  • This project is a collaboration with researchers and universities in other countries. Can you tell us more about that?
  • The project is a collaboration between the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), University of Nairobi, Kenya, and the Department of Geography and Regional Planning, University of Cape Coast, Ghana. The IDS project team includes Dr. Anne Kamau of IDS (Principal Investigator and IDS team leader), Erik Oluoch Manga and Paschalin Menge Basil (Co-investigators). The UCC team includes Dr. (Mrs) Regina Obilie Amoako-Sakyi, Co-Principal Investigator and UCC team leader and Dr. Kwabena Koforobour-Agyemang (Co-investigator). The project advisors are Professor Winnie Mitullah of IDS, University of Nairobi, Kenya; and Professor Albert M. Abane of the Department of Geography and Regional Planning, University of Cape Coast, Ghana.
  • How do you plan to carry out the work, and how have you adapted to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic)?
  • We have commenced activities and are currently concluding review of policy documents and other relevant literature and plan to have an inter-country synthesised document. We plan to initiate the mapping exercise to identify crossing-points used by children to assess the designs in terms of ensuring children safety.
  • We have had to adapt or delay our face-to-face workshops, meetings and interviews. For instance, we were unable to hold our project start-up and methodology workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. We have instead continued to communicate via email and held online meetings between the project partners and Advisory Board members. For the interviews, we intend to conduct telephone interviews, where possible, with the parents and school heads or representatives. We are however not able to interview children as the schools are closed and are exploring alternatives for getting this data on children safety.
  • Are there any initial insights from the comparative study?
  • From the review of policy documents and country situations, it is clear that children’s mobility in Nairobi and Kumasi has both similarities and differences. First, in both cases, children travel to school by foot, paratransit systems, private vehicles or motorcycles. Children safety in both cities are of concern and preliminary reviews show that children often have difficulty accessing public transport systems or to even cross the road. There are also differences. In Kenya, the use of school transport systems - usually buses or vans - is common and there are regulations that vehicles transporting children to school must comply with. Such regulated transport systems are lacking in Kumasi. This is one area that the team from UCC aims to learn from Kenya as one way of enhancing children safety. On the part of UCC, the team has previously undertaken transport safety and audit studies. The Kenya team hopes to learn about the methodology used in the UCC studies and use them in the Kenya study.

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