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Overloaded School Buses And Safety Of Children



The mere sight of the overloaded saloon cars conveying school pupils to and from schools is scary as in some cases more than 20 pupils are crammed in a car. There are concerns over the safety of pupils who are ferried to and from school in such deplorable state, AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE, reports.

He drove with so much speed on a bumpy road as if he were driving on a smooth asphaltic road in the APC Quarters area of Gwazulu in Suleja Town in Suleja local government area of Niger State.

At first, residents thought he was just another youth suffering from psychological ‘Ego Identity’ and a new man behind the steering who probably, is excited over driving but were shocked to realised he was an adult driving pupils who are returning back from school.

In an old rickety saloon car, the said driver was carrying over 15 school children, crammed on each other as if they were stock fish. You could hear the pains of the children being ferried up the bumpy road as they clamped on each other.

As if that was not enough, the driver of the saloon car does not even have a manifest of the children in his overloaded car.

“My sister, my sister one of the little girl screams” and ran after the already speeding car, the driver had no idea that he should have dropped off two children and not one.

The school driver was blinded by the number of children loaded in the car and failed to realise he was supposed to drop two children and not one.

As the man quickly drop the little girl, our Correspondent who was at the scene asked the little children why they are not been transported in a school bus. Little Toyin (Surname withheld) told LEADERSHIP Weekend that they were told that their school bus has broken down and was being fixed.

But after one month, LEADERSHIP Weekend observed that the saloon car was still being used to transport the school children to and from school in the same scary manner.

When our Correspondent went to town in the early hours of schools resumption, it observed a growing trend of schools mostly, the privately owned have indulged the habit of cramming school children in saloon cars while conveying them to school and back home.

Most the cars used have no inscription to identify the school that operate them. The number plates are private making it difficult to put a trace.

Meanwhile, its more shocking that many of the parents of these children who are made to go through the risks on a daily basis are not even aware of the way and manner their children are conveyed to school as many parents are too busy to pay attention.

In the case of any emergency, many people who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend wondered what will become of the children.

Mr Michael Ade, a parent and a businessman in Suleja expressed his displeasure over the development as he said the way and manner some private school owners operate is appalling. “This is not fair to the children and the parents who foot their bills, carrying children in rickety cars and loading the kids as if they are animals is very unfair,” he said.

Further observation by LEADERSHIP Weekend has revealed that these set of overloaded school cars drive through front of police stations and by officials of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) unchecked.

Effort to get the Niger State command of the FRSC to react to the development was unsuccessful as the PRO of the command was unwilling to speak on the matter.

But a senior officer of the Commission on patrol in the Suleja area told LEADERSHIP Weekend that overloading of vehicle beyond the stipulated capacity is an offence.

“Not arresting those cars overloading school children in cars must be an oversight by us but I promised we will be on the lookout for such vehicles conveying children to school in a risky manner,” the FRSC official said.

The rate of private schools sprawling up in several parts of Suleja and other parts Niger State has got not a few people worried over standard and safety.

Private schools are found in almost every street, nooks and crannies of the city. Some in uncompleted buildings with no regard for standards.

The patronage appears high for these set of schools because of the relatively cheap fees they charge leaving parents with no option than to take their wards there instead of the public ones.

Recall that in February, a school bus was gutted by fire in the Lugbe area of Abuja in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) while a mechanic was still working on it. The bus had stopped over because of a fault with pupils inside when it caught fire burning three to death.

A school owner, Grace Edache, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that the desperation to make money by some individuals setting up private schools is making a mess of the educational sector.

“There are hundreds of new schools springing up at the beginning of every school year, everybody wants to be a proprietor or proprietress without doing the right thing.

“Conveying kids in an overcrowded car is too risky as not only the physical safety of the children that is being compromised, their health is also being endangered because at that stage of life, the kids are vulnerable to infections.

“If one has one infection, it could spread to the rest when they are crammed in one place especially in a small car. The ideal means of transportation of pupils is a bus which allows much space and comfort for the children,” she said.