Risk to schoolchildren 'greatest'

Najaf shares nationwide worry over road safety

NAJAF — In the wake of a devastating incident in Basra’s Al-Hartha district, where a truck plowed into students leaving Zaynab Primary School, communities in Najaf’s Al-Mishkhab and Al-Manathera are voicing their concerns. With seven schools situated along a busy external road, residents are demanding “bold decisions” to ensure student safety, mirroring calls on social media and spotlighting the Industrial Secondary School as facing the “greatest risk.”

Ali Salem, from Al-Mishkhab, told 964media, “Many of our schools are located on external roads like Al-Qadisiyah Street, where vehicles often speed. We’re urging the government to install pedestrian bridges and ensure traffic patrols are in place for safer student crossings. Our area has seen numerous accidents, though they haven’t garnered the same media attention as the tragedy in Basra.”

Abdul-Khaliq Al-Miyali, the chief of Al-Mishkhab, outlined steps being taken: “We’ve agreed to construct pedestrian bridges at five locations, notably in front of An-Nubugh and Al-Ishraq schools. The Municipality Directorate of Al-Mishkhab has been directed to install speed bumps near schools, and the Directorate of Facility Protection will increase patrols to facilitate safer student passage.”

Yasser Al-Shamri, from Al-Manathera, stressed the danger at the Industrial Secondary School, located on a major road connecting Al-Manathera to central Najaf. “We are hopeful that the authorities will take decisive action soon,” he said.

Iyad Al-Zarfi, the chief of Al-Manathera, announced, “Plans for footbridges in Al-Manathera have been included in the 2024 budget, with implementation expected upon approval.”

This community outcry follows recent national attention on pedestrian safety around schools, sparked by a tragic accident in Basra’s Al-Hartha district where a truck plowed into students leaving Zaynab Primary School, resulting in six fatalities and 14 injuries.

This incident has cast a spotlight on the broader issue of road safety and infrastructure across Iraq. The tragedy in Basra has reignited discussions on the urgent need for improved urban planning and safety measures near schools, especially in areas beset by heavy traffic and lacking adequate pedestrian facilities.

In response to the Basra tragedy, traffic police in Tuz Khurmatu intensified safety initiatives in school zones. Despite these efforts, a motorcyclist hit a student after school hours just hours after the new measures were implemented, an incident captured on surveillance cameras.