How safe is your child in that school bus?

Wednesday July 27 2022
schoool bus pic
By The Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam. Questions are being raised regarding the roadworthiness of some school buses after an accident killed eight pupils, their driver and a woman yesterday morning in Mikindani, Mtwara.

Reacting, President Samia Suluhu Hassan tweeted a message of condolences to the bereaved families and wished the injured a quick recovery.

“I am saddened by the deaths of eight pupils of King David Primary School and two adults that occurred this morning in Mtwara-Mikindani after their school bus plunged into a ditch. I offer my condolences to the bereaved, the Regional Commissioner and relatives. May Allah have mercy on the deceased and heal the injured,” the Head of State wrote in her tweet.

The accident reminds Tanzanians of several similar incidents involving school buses in the past, including those that claimed lives of several dozens of pupils.

In May 2017, 32 two schoolchildren, two teachers and a minibus driver for Lucky Vincent School where killed when their vehicle plunged into a roadside ravine in Arusha.

It was in apparent reference to that tragedy that hysteria gripped the nation in October last year when a video circulated in social media showing more than 45 children disembarking from a Toyota Hiace.

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The van, with the capacity to carry 14 passengers, was apparently overloaded as 5 to 10-year olds were counted coming out of the car. In the video, the car appeared to have been discovered by a police officer who stopped it and ordered the children out of the car one after another as he condemned the act.

In March 17, 2019 a fourth grade pupil at Horten Secondary, Ramadhan Fikirini, was killed when a school bus hit a train at Dolphine in Tanga. Twenty-seven others were injured.

In August 2018, one person was killed while eight more (seven of them pupils) were injured in an accident where two school buses collided at Nyamongolo in Mwanza.

But in his briefing on the Mtwara incident yesterday, the acting Regional Police Commander for Mtwara, Mr Nicodemus Katembo, said the accident was caused by brake failure that saw the vehicle veering off the road and plunging into a ridge.

And, according to the traffic police commander, Mr Wilbroad Mutafungwa, the bus involved in the accident was one of the 34 that had been inspected and received a ‘clean bill of health’.

“It was inspected on June 13, this year as part of the operation to inspect all school buses. The operation started on June 4, this year which is being conducted throughout all the 31 police regions in the country,” he said.

He, however, said he had ordered police officers in Mtwara to investigate the matter.

“I have ordered Mtwara officials for an investigation and when they complete, we will know the cause of the accident. What I know is that the bus was inspected and it was found to be roadworthy. They were only required to make minor adjustments,” he said.

He, however, insisted that all school buses be brought to police stations for inspection.

Police figures show that for a period of two weeks starting June 4, 2022, they had inspected a total of 2,090 school buses.

Out of the number, 1,594 were found to be intact while 359 had minor technical faults whereas 137 had major faults and were not certified for use in the roads.

During the inspection, the police force also realized that some of the drivers for the buses did not have the right credentials to man the vehicles.

However, parents and other concerned groups expressed their fears about the safety of pupils in school buses due to the type of accidents that have been occurring, most of which are linked to the negligence of drivers or road safety authorities.

“Bus operators aim at maximizing profit and what they do is they just take the old buses which are actually so prone to the accidents and they hire the not much qualified drivers,” said Mr Abdul Maziku, a resident of Dar es Salaam.

Others mentioned low salaries, high responsibilities for school bus drivers who are also required to obtain a number of certificates to get clearance from authorities to laxity in enforcing traffic regulations to have resulted in mounting irregularities to creep in.

“Most of the time, we are not sure about the safety of our children because when you are on the road, you meet those buses with small children whose heads or hands are dangling out through windows. Others are driven at high speed as if they are upcountry buses...it’s really impossible,” lamented Ms Eunice Jovin, an entrepreneur here in the city.

“The drivers and attendants of these buses, including matrons and patrons, must be given adequate training so that they can care about the lives of our children,” she added.