Today, like it was in the past when the number of schools was not as high as it is currently, many a school-going child will commute to a school far away from their home. And it is not shocking at all except the reasons for this today may vary from those in the past. Except in the past, they would walk the distance.
Today, we have become accustomed to seeing minibuses, boda bodas and other cars ferrying children from all corners of Kampala suburbs to city schools. During school time, adults together with pupils struggle to get a seat in the limited taxis during the rush hours of the mornings and evenings.
In light of all this, parents, schools and private entities, among others take the initiative to provide options to parents on how they can conveniently get their children to school. But every parent’s major concern is, or at least should be on which means of transportation is convenient, financially friendly, but most of all, safe.
Robinah Nerima Lubega, a mother of a six-year-old Primary One child at Victorious Educational Services, Namirembe Road, says the only means of getting her child to school without worrying about their safety is through a trusted friend.
“We have a close family friend whose child also goes to the same school. She has a flexible job which allows her to make the school runs for us. We are about four friends and we live in the same neighbourhood. All we do is fuel her car either weekly or monthly,” Nerima shares.
She adds that this arrangement has been going on for the past two years and it has been safe and effective. “She is always on time. I cannot imagine using other means to transport my child,” she adds.
“I trust online transport providers than the random boda boda riders. I believe they are more responsible, accountable and traceable. Since the distance from home to school is not long, I have my Taxify cyclist who drops the child to school in the morning and in the evening the mother picks him up from school,” Samson Mukisa shares.
Damalie Wasukira, the communications officer at Safe Boda Uganda, says parents should ensure the boda boda that picks their child has a helmet. “Besides helmets, we assign a professional rider for a child a unique identity card number that can be used to identify them at school,” she says.
Private vs school shuttles
Whereas some would go for a private transport provider without a second thought, to other people, it is unthinkable. The difference between the two is; a private transport company is external and outside school management and jurisdiction whereas a school shuttle is entirely part of the school arrangement and administration.
Frank Sekigozi, a partner at Kidz Ride, a private transport service provider shares that since there is stiff competition, private service providers put in extra effort to offer their customers value for money by giving them topnotch services.
“However, one of the challenges is the number of children who go to different schools. This brings about time-keeping challenges,” he confesses. But Alice Kyomugisha, the deputy head teacher at Dolphin Kindergarten and Daycare, Kitintale, says it is safer for children to use the school shuttle.
“First of all, these are our main customers as a school and so, we take extra care by hiring the best drivers, who are accountable to us. Additionally, parents and other people can give us feedback on how our drivers behave and there, we can take necessary action, which we would not do with a private shuttle,” Kyomugisha notes.
Walking to school
For walkable distances, some parents hire people to help them take the children to school.
Patricia Akulo shares that: “It is not possible for me to take my child at school everyday. But luckily for me, we have an elderly lady in my neighbourhood who is a teacher at that school, so she helps us take the children to school, which is also in the same community and I give her Shs1,000 to take and bring her back to school. I feel like this is safer than sending her alone,” Akulo says.
In conclusion, however, Kyomugisha says that when it comes to issues of safety, a child is most safe with their parents. “I know that issues of lifestyle may not allow us to do that, but if possible, it is best that every parent brings their child at school, regardless of how they do it; whether in commuter taxis, on a boda, in their car, or walking by foot. Its just that we are trying to fit into the current lifestyle that we improvise with all these other options.”
Who is responsible?
According to Patrick Nasinyama, a lawyer at Paul Byaruhanga Advocates; both the school and parents are held responsible by law in regard to safe transportation of a school-going child. He says: “Incase a child gets knocked down by a car on their way home from school, both the school and parents are to blame. The school is expected to be concerned that if the child is leaving school to walk to home, they should be accompanied by someone. Parents too should be responsible to ensure their children are safely transported or accompanied from school.”
As the popular African saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child”, it should therefore be everyone’s duty to see that school-going children get safe transport means.