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Enforce school bus rules to boost safety

The tragic incident in Mombasa in which a pupil was crushed to death by a school bus has once again sparked debate on safety in school transportation.

This particularly emotive case has arisen not out of failure to strictly follow road rules, but to observe broader equally important traffic regulations.

The boy allegedly fell through a hole in the floor of the bus and was run over.

This begs the question as to whether the vehicle had been inspected and certified for use.

We are also confronted here with a situation that calls into question the overall management of this vital school service.

NEGLIGENCE

It points to negligence by the school management.

The tragedy could easily have been avoided had the school administration ensured that pupils did not board a vehicle that did not deserve to be on the road, in the first place.

In recent years, there has been a clamour for buses by every primary and secondary school and college to ease transportation.

The school bus has become a key component of education institutions that needs to be carefully managed.

The truth, however, is that many schools have buses but lack the capacity to properly manage them, including ensuring that they undergo regular maintenance.

Another key aspect is making sure that the drivers are competitively recruited and supervised.

ACCIDENTS

Investigations into school bus accidents have revealed that some drivers were incompetent or unlicensed or just too inexperienced to handle these big vehicles, but were beneficiaries of nepotism or cronyism.

The National Transport and Safety Authority director-general Francis Meja says the school administration will be charged with negligence.

It’s a welcome assurance, but it will not reverse the needless loss of a little child who deserved better from people entrusted with looking after him.

STRINGENT GUIDELINES

There is a need for more proactive action by the NTSA.

After all, it has issued stringent guidelines for school bus transport that need to be strictly enforced.

They cover the condition of the school bus, driver selection, training and performance.

Others include supervision, responsibility of the school bus driver, and inspection.

The vehicles must be checked by the Motor Vehicle Inspection Unit biannually. 

The first inspection period is in January or February and the second in June July or August.

Schools should not only be required to strictly follow the guidelines, but the NTSA must, in collaboration with traffic police, fully enforce them to enhance safety.

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