The National Association of Parents has called for an urgent audit of the construction of school bus bodies to avoid a repeat of an accident in Mombasa on Friday in which a kindergarten pupil fell inside an opening on a bus floor and was crushed to death.
The lobby says the heavy costs that parents incur while financing school buses should be put to good use, which will ensure safe travel for learners.
On Saturday, the association’s chairman Nicholas Maiyo said a bus body inspection initiative by a group of engineers that started early this year should now be reinvigorated so that all school buses are inspected.
“The engineers should press for improving the body building and the quality of the buses,” Mr Maiyo told the Nation. “Parents use a lot of money buying buses every year.”
This is even as questions continue to emerge on whether regulations set by the National Transport and Safety Authority late last year are being followed by schools that own buses.
The regulations stipulated that every school bus should be inspected twice a year: in January or February and in June, July or August.
On Friday, as the news of the death of six-year-old Jeremy Masila drew anger from various quarters, the NTSA issued a statement saying the school administration knew that parts of the vehicle had not been maintained.
The authority’s director general Francis Meja said preliminary investigations had shown that the floor plate of the bus had been corroded and covered with a carpet.
Even with his announcement that the school administration would be charged with negligence, questions linger on how many school buses are safe enough.
“Most school buses are unroadworthy. After they are done with matatu business, they are dumped to upcoming schools,” Mr Linus Kiminda, a Nairobi resident, posted on a Nation Facebook account on Friday.
“There should be a routine check on all vehicles in the coast because of the salty water. That shows the floor had corrosion,” Asaph Hitchez, another Facebook user, posted.
“It’s about time they even standardised school buses and subject them to more vigorous inspection,” said Francis Okinyo on the Nation’s Twitter handle.
Another lingering concern is that the average school bus is constructed by installing sheets on the chassis of a truck, meaning the load distribution and toughness of materials may not be to manufacturing standards.
And, in a coincidental turn of events, President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday evening assented into law the Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2016, which contains rules on the speed of school buses, restricts schools from using buses for non-school related activity, directs that school buses be painted yellow among other provisions.
Now called the Traffic Amendment Act 2017, the legislation also compels the Education Cabinet Secretary to prescribe measures for continuous inspection of vehicles transporting children.
The amendment commands those who transport schoolchildren aged under eight years to ensure the vehicle is fitted with a “prescribed child restraint device” at all times when in the vehicle.
“The child restraint device or sear stipulated under this section shall be in accordance with the prescribed standards,” says the Act that emanated from a Bill sponsored by Laisamis MP Joseph Lekuton.