Students’ safety at risk

Year after year, accidents involving schoolchildren make headlines and families wish “it shouldn’t happen to anyone else”. Yet, they keep happening.
Bereaved parents or relatives shed tears remembering their dear ones or the plight of those living like a “vegetable” after the tragedy.
Accidents can devastate families.
Soon after a tragedy strikes a student, schools and others concerned with child safety carry out awareness campaigns.
They act as an eye-opener to the rest, at least till another tragedy strikes.
Take, for instance, a look at the schools today.
Its absolute chaos after the school hours.
Students — in a tearing hurry to get home — throwing safety to the winds when crossing the road, drivers in a hurry to drop the children back home or parents driving in to pick up their wards.
The Ministry of Education had recommended a traffic controller from school, a person to guide the children to safely board the bus or maintain an order for school buses to park and pick up children.
Sadly, there are hardly any signs of these recommendations having been implemented.
Instead, what we see is chaos.
Even a slight carelessness by a student or a driver can cost a precious life.
“I don’t understand how hundreds of children aged 4 to 17 years make their way through vehicles safely and reach their buses safely without the help of a guide,” felt an expatriate living near a large school.
It’s not long since a KG student was run over by a school bus in Jibroo.
It is less than a year since a boy was knocked down by a speeding school bus in Seeb.
The incident involving three students of an expat school who died instantly in a mishap at Qurum Heights is still fresh in our memory.
Three more lives were lost to drunk driving in Nizwa.
These are grim reminders of how carelessness can prove costly.
Statistics show 25 people, including some schoolchildren, lost their lives between the end of January and beginning of March last year.
One of the worst tragedies was the one involving a school bus in Ibri, claiming the lives of seven people, including four schoolchildren, on January 28 last year.
The bus, carrying 33 Class II students of the Indian School Nizwa, were returning from a field trip to Bahla when it collided with a truck as the driver attempted a U-turn at a notoriously dangerous spot.
“It’s all about imposing some code of conduct on the bus drivers,” says Abdul Rahim, former president of School Management Committee, Indian School Darsait.
“Unless they are given safe driving training and made accountable, accidents will continue to occur,” he said.
According to him, a majority of accidents are caused by young people who “drive buses like a sports car”.There should be a system to hold them accountable.
We shouldn’t wait until another tragedy strikes.”
Mohammed Najeeb, an expert on school transportation safety, blames the lack of training for drivers for accidents involving school buses, terming it the “No. 1 problem” in Oman.
“No doubt, the transport companies ensure their drivers have a licence, but they fail to provide them with adequate training from time to time,” he added.

Kabeer Yousuf