#BounceExclusive: How Safe Is Your Child's School Bus?
You no longer come out from the house to see who came to pick up your child or the condition of the bus used to convey your "priceless" jewel to school.
Your primary focus is that the child gets an education which you tell yourself 'I struggle so hard to pay for'.
Your role as a parent or guardian goes beyond 'paying' the fees; anyone can pay but not everyone cares enough to ask for details.
I first noticed the thick fume billowing outside the gate of the house, I moved closer in shock wondering if the Lagos Danfos have extended their route to our once residential street.
I walked out quickly to confirm my fears but what I saw was more astonishing than I Imagined.
It was my son's school bus coughing and choking before it even began the 15 minute journey to the self-acclaimed citadel of learning.
My eyes almost popped out of their sockets.
Riding the school bus is supposed to be the safest mode of transportation for pupils and students.
Some school of thought believe that children are 20 times more likely to arrive safely by taking the school bus rather than riding in a private vehicle driven by their parents.
The essence of a school bus is to save time, provide convenience, comfort and above all, safety when the children are on the road.
A standard school bus should have installed warning devices that allow them to stop traffic around when picking up or dropping off students.
School buses should also be equipped with a number of safety devices to prevent accidents or injuries and for the purpose of security.
A standard school bus should also have emergency exits different from the usual entry and exit doors, video surveillance, and seat belts.
YES, SEAT BELTS!!!
In North America, school buses are purpose-built and distinguished from other types of buses by design characteristics mandated by federal and state regulations.
In addition to the use of a vehicle-specific paint color, school buses are fitted with exterior warning lights to give them traffic priority.
But a lot of private schools in Nigeria are abandoning the main reason for a school bus, which is SAFETY, but instead concentrating on money making, consequently endangering the lives of innocent children.
Perhaps these schools have been supported and encouraged by the help of careless parents.
If the purpose of a school bus is primarily for safety, then an 18-seater bus should not contain more than that number of children, no matter how young they are.
But in most cases, what we see are school buses jampacked with almost double the number of available seats.
A careful look at some buses in some parts of Lagos by Bounce News revealed how not just bad and old the buses are, we also saw how overloaded they could be.
Some of these schools charge as much as N50,000 per child per term, with some parents having up to three children in one school.
In December 2014, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) developed new standards and rules for school owners with regards to the kind of school buses to be used across the country.
The Ota Unit Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Assistant Corps Commander Sunday Omafu, revealed this at the public enlightenment campaign organised by the command for proprietors of private schools.
Omafu said the school bus operator must acquire a comprehensive insurance that covers both the buses and the occupants of the vehicle from a registered insurance company regulated by the National Insurance Commission.
“The school buses are to be uniformly coloured and the exterior is to have a yellow background with two white stripes three centimetres spaced by two centimetres, running from the bonnet upwards across the roof down the back end.
“The exterior must have the name of the school, the logo, serialised code on both sides and at the front view of the bus and must be conspicuously marked ‘school bus’ above the wind screen close to the roof.” He was quoted by The Nation.
But most schools have almost completely defied the rules, operating buses without basic concern for the mental state of the driver.
The lives of these little children are being risked on a daily basis with the arrogant way school owners flaunt the SON rules, they appear to be more powerful than the regulatory body itself.
But will the regulatory body rise up to discipline violators?
Will the school owners rethink and adjust in order to re-focus on safety rather than money making?
Will parents wake up to their responsibility as the final regulators who pay the pipers and dictate the tune through the Parents Teachers Association?
Will your priceless jewel leave home one day and never return?
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