As six-year-old Jeremy Masila, who was crushed to death by a school bus last week, was buried at their rural home in Kitui on Saturday, questions still abound about the safety of learners on Kenyan roads.
Masila’s demise in Mombasa adds to the statistics capturing the deaths of pupils and students killed in accidents involving school buses.
In the case, the National Transportation and Safety Authority (NTSA) said the floor plate of the bus was corroded and covered with a PVC carpet.
“This points to the fact that the school knowingly concealed this defect in the vehicle.
“To this end, the authority has detained the vehicle and will undergo a structural inspection as per KS372 Standards that took effect from 22nd May, 2017,” the authority said in a statement.
As of August 18 last year, NTSA put the figure of school-going children who lost their lives to road accidents at 180.
The accidents include those involving school transport (hired or institution-owned), those hit by vehicles and by boda boda.
READ: School boss to get mental test in boy’s death
Although the Traffic Amendment Act 2017, which seeks to amend the Traffic (cap 403) was signed by the president to promote road safety near schools and also promote child safety in school buses, to Road Safety Volunteers director and founder George Kelvin says there is a need to addresses the risks to children on the road.
“Road users and especially riders and drivers need to respect the 30Kph rule around schools and areas with high human activity since children are more likely to be victims when it comes to crossing the road without proper non-motorised sections,” Mr Kelvin said.
A former Loreto Msongari pupil Madikizela Otieno has sued the school management and a bus driver for Sh26 million in compensation after an accident in 2011 in which two of her colleagues died.
Recently, pupils of St Anne’s Primary School on Jogoo Road in Nairobi blocked the road after a volunteer who helps them cross the road was knocked down by a bus.
The learners reported that the bus driver ignored the volunteer who had already lifted the ‘Stop Children Crossing’ sign.
In one of the worst accidents on July 2013, 12 students died when a bus they were in heading to Gucha area for the annual Kisii County secondary school ball games rolled at Nyambunde on the Itumbe-Nyamache road as the driver negotiated a sharp bend.
The students were drawn from five schools within Kisii County.
Along the same stretch on August 12, 2016, a school bus belonging to St Mary’s Nyamagwa Girls Secondary was involved in another fatal accident.
Four students who were part of the team celebrating the delivery of the new school bus died after it rolled with them on board.
READ: Boy crushed to death by school bus
Two pupils from Victorian Academy in Meru also died in a crash in Nairobi in August last year while 35 others of Chuka/Igambang’ombe Primary School heading to the National Music Festival in Nairobi escaped unhurt after their school veered off the Meru-Embu road.
Relevant agencies, Mr Kelvin says, need to enforce traffic rule and those of school buses.
“In 2011 and 2012, we helped over 5,000 children cross the Thika Superhighway before footbridges were done.
We had several challenges because in this as traffic marshals because again the traffic Act does not recognize a civilian stopping a motorist on the road,” Mr Kelvin said.
He added that school management should also properly vet hired vehicles for trips.
In a training manual for teachers by Safe Way Right Way, an international road safety NGO, tutors should inculcate road safety precautions in children at a young age.
“Understanding the direction of traffic and rules of priority, knowing how to use the sidewalk and banks of the road, learning when to stop and look to each side before crossing and obeying the road signs are some of the issues in the safety awareness program for children,” it states.
Regulations by NTSA say that that every school bus should be inspected twice a year: in January or February and in June, July or August.
The National Association of Parents has also called for an urgent audit of the construction of school bus bodies
Ms Madikizela Otieno says she sustained extensive injuries and had to undergo several surgeries.