PACDA calls to safeguard schoolchildren

MUSCAT, SepT 6 – It was a miraculous escape for nearly 20 children belonging to an expatriate school when the bus in which they were transported from school to home on Tuesday. The first broke out of the engine while the bus was moving.
The bus owned by a private company was shuttling their staff’s children when ill-fate stuck the vehicle in Sultan Qaboos street. Children were saved unhurt and the driver too was safe but the bus was gutted in the afternoon fire although efforts were on to save the same, said the Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulances (PACDA).
“The PACDA brigades rushed to the scene after we were alerted by the call from a passerby and all children are safe,” a senior official told the Observer.
However, this incident sheds light on the importance of safer school transportation system and the authorities need to pay more attention on this issue. Private transportation systems, outsourced services and the school-owned transport systems.
“Mostly, buses with no proper maintenance are in operation commuting children between schools and homes. In this scenario, a clear plan needs to be made by the school”.
“There should be proper monitoring system of the bus’s movement, arrival and departure and drivers’ behaviour. Tyres and batteries should be checked from time to time as it can spark fires especially during hot summer,” he added.
He said that the school should shoulder the responsibility of safer transportation, while substantial attention needs to be paid to the fleet’s regular check-ups and vehicles need to pass fitness tests from time to time while drivers should be trained well to handle buses carrying children.
“The drivers need to be well trained and should be taught how to drive safe. Lessons on defensive driving is essential. Additionally, engine shouldn’t be kept on while waiting for the children as keeping engine on is another factor contributing to overheat and fire”.
There have been several incidents of reckless driving and using unfit vehicles to commute children back and forth. PACDA statistics show that majority of the accidents happen due to poor maintenance of vehicles and wrong driving attitudes.

KABEER YOUSUF