Learners crammed in kombis, a ticking time bomb

17 May, 2024 - 00:05 0 Views
Learners crammed in kombis, a ticking time bomb Kombis and pirate taxis overloaded with schoolchildren are now a common, but disturbing sight on our roads. − Picture: Tinai Nyadzayo

The ManicaPost

 

Lovemore Kadzura
Post Correspondent

SAFETY of schoolchildren is being jeopardised by transporters that are cramming them in kombis and pirate taxis in a bid to maximise profits, while their parents and guardians, keen to save few dollars, are complicit to exposing the innocent souls to such dangers.

Every morning kombis and pirate taxis overloaded with schoolchildren are now a common, but disturbing sight on our roads as transport operators carry twice their vehicles’ carrying capacity.

As if overloading is not enough, the ‘school buses’ are notorious for speeding, as the drivers race against the clock to complete multiple trips of transporting the learners to school.

A check by The Manica Post showed that schoolchildren are being made to sit on each other’s laps, and made to pay an equivalent of US$0.50 per pair instead of per individual on a single trip.

They are paired at picking up points, and a kombi designed to carry 18 seated passengers can load up to 40, with others seating just behind the driver (pakadoma).

For example, a pirating Honda Fit, which ordinarily is supposed to carry five passengers, including the driver is being made to ferry 15 schoolchildren − that is eight at the back, four at the front squeezing with the driver and three in the boot.

Apart from the horrible scenes, juvenile delinquency is also being promoted by this trend as in some cases learners of opposing gender are made to sit on each other’s laps.

But for how long should this ticking time bomb be addressed?

Can this dangerous way of transporting vulnerable schoolchildren be allowed to continue?

 

How come these crammed kombis and pirate taxis pass through police roadblocks without being reined in by the law enforcement agents?

 

How come the police are turning a blind eye on these irresponsible transport operators and drivers?

Should disaster strike first for corrective action to be taken?

Safety of schoolchildren is a collective responsibility, and as such must be prioritised by all and sundry.

It should not be sacrificed on the altar of expediency.

Acting Manicaland provincial police spokesperson, Assistant Inspector Wiseman Chinyoka said parents, kombi operators and drivers must ensure that safety of travelling learners is always prioritised.

He also implored parents and guardians to do diligent background checks before engaging a particular operator and driver to transport their children.

“Police have noted with concern the overloading of schoolchildren, especially some infants in kombis and pirate taxis. We are encouraging parents to consider the safety and welfare of their children, and avoid a scenario where children are stashed and crammed like sacks or goods. Schoolchildren, just like any other passenger should be seated comfortably in a public vehicle. Parents must have arrangements with registered transport service providers.

“Before engaging a transport operator to carry their schoolchildren, parents must first check the following – the vehicle’s certificate of fitness, passenger insurance and the driver’s medical certificates, background and driving history. In the event of a mishap, these schoolchildren must be covered by insurance,” he said.

Assistant Inspector Chinyoka said parents must also have contact details of the drivers who carry their children to and from school as well as their timetable schedules.

“We are having scenarios where some infants end up being brought to police stations after missing their transporters. This made us realise that some parents and guardians do not have contact details of the drivers who transport their children to and from school,” he said.

Acting Manicaland Provincial Education Director, Mr Richard Gabaza said the ministry has a policy that encourages parents to enroll children at their nearest school – that is within a reasonable walking distance.

He said in the event that learners commute to school, parents and guardians must make sure they use properly registered transport operators.

“The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has a clear mandate of ensuring the provision of education to learners, starting from Early Childhood Development (ECD) to Form Six, including Non-Formal Education.

“So, specifically our concern is on learner welfare across all levels. We have a policy that encourages learners to be enrolled at their nearest school, which is a walkable distance, and we strongly emphasize this to parents and guardians. This is meant to ensure that the learner arrives at school on time and goes back home without unnecessary risks and delays.

“In the event that parents and guardians chose schools far away from their homes, it is their responsibility to monitor what happens along the way, that is how their children are being transported. We will reach out to parents and guardians, conscientising them on the risks associated with entrusting unregistered vehicles to ferry their children to and from school,” said Mr Gabaza.

Some parents have a tendency of shunning schools within their vicinity, especially in high density suburbs, opting for former Group As that are known for producing the best results, especially at Grade Seven.

“Policy cannot dictate to me where I should enroll my child. It is my choice to enroll my children at the school of my choice as long as I am able to pay the approved school fees as well as the requirements set by the school.

“However, there is need to take the issue of carriage of school children seriously because oftentimes the kombis are overloaded, and speeding, putting schoolchildren from distant suburbs at risk. It is actually a ticking time bomb. However, there are some registered operators that are still operating within the law,” said a parent from Rusape with two commuting children at John Cowie Primary School.

Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe media and corporate communications officer, Mrs Lucy Kuwandira Mapfumo said they have a programme that focuses on proper learners’ road safety.

She called upon parents and transporters to put the safety and interest of schoolchildren first.

“For the recklessness that occurs on our roads, there is need for behavioural change, especially on the part of those transporting children to and from school.

It is in this regard that we implore school authorities and transport operators to hire drivers with proper documentation, including defensive driving certificates and good behaviour.

“It is also important for these drivers to observe road rules, avoid reckless behaviour and to have the future of Zimbabwe at heart. The must understand that the future of the country lies within these young ones.

“We run a programme targeted at schoolchildren, teachers and parents. It is aimed at teaching our children passenger, cyclist and pedestrian safety.

“Through this programme, we aim to equip school authorities, parents and guardians with knowledge on proper road safety so that they can assist us with imparting the acquired knowledge to the young ones,” said Mrs Mapfumo.

 

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