That anxious wait for a child's return home

That anxious wait for a child's return home

That anxious wait for a child's return home

A The trip from home to school and back is when children have least adult supervision and parents fret over different options to ensure a safe journey.

Uzma Faraaz is the mother of two girls, one in Class 1 and the other in lower Kindergarten. “I have read several reports about cases of child abuse, so I prefer to take them to school and bring them back myself,” she says.

On a break from work, Uzma has the time to go the extra mile for the safety of her little ones. She says that she will consider sending her kids on the school bus once they have grown up and can take care of themselves. “I would never send them by private vehicles though. I have seen groups of 15 to 20 children crossing the road, led by a single van driver. It is very dangerous and I would not want to put my children at risk.”

Some parents take time from their busy work schedules to drop their children to school and pick them up. With a young daughter in Class 8, Swapna Kumar is uncomfortable letting her use the private service hired by the school to ferry students.

She explains, “There are very few students on this route and she would be the only girl. If there was an ayah or other girl students, I would have considered sending her in the vehicle.” The regular school buses do have an ayah on every route, but since her area is not covered, Kumar prefers to drive her daughter back and forth.

Mary Suma, a software engineer, waits for a call every day from her son who studies in Class 4 to know that he has reached home safely. “Often the school bus gets delayed due to traffic and when this happens I do not know whom to call to find out where he is,” says Suma.

Though the buses were fitted with GPS devices earlier, the school disabled the system and returned the money they had collected from the parents for the installation. “I am not sure why that was done, they did not give us a clear explanation,” she recalls.

Parents confused

Several schools outsource their transport service, leaving parents confused about whom to hold accountable. Ayyappan B is a software professional whose son is a Class 4 student in an international school. “Initially, we had a few issues with the driver about the route. When we contacted the school management, they asked us to speak to the drivers and conductors directly since they had sub-contracted transport,” he says.
Also, there is no clarity on whether background checks have been conducted on the drivers.

Schools can gain the trust of parents by having a teacher on board and involving them in the transport system. Shalini Raheja, a homemaker, has two children, one in Class 5 and the other in Class 11. One school has its own fleet and the other has a tie-up with BMTC to ferry children. “The school ensures that the bus does not pick up any children unless there is a teacher on board. In case a teacher cannot make it, parents are informed beforehand.”

GPS tracking

She would have liked it if GPS tracking was available but is satisfied with the facilities available. Raheja adds, “I would not risk sending my children by private vehicles which are overcrowded with several students sharing a single seat.” The school regularly checks on their drivers and holds meetings with them but there is no one to take such responsibility with private vehicles.

It is possible to address all concerns of parents and ensure a child-friendly transport service as some schools have shown. Roby Paul has four children studying in different classes in an international school. The buses have GPS tracking and a female attender is always present, even if there are few children on board.

Explains Paul, “The bus drivers are friendly and approachable. They do not let the child out of the bus unless they see the parent at home. The school takes regular feedback and the transport coordinators hold meetings with the drivers too. Their backgrounds are also verified.” Paul is extremely satisfied with the service and has never had any complaints.  ­­

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