Children's Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA
LAST week, as I was approaching the Kabwe Roundabout on the Great East Road flyover bridge, I was attracted by the noisy passengers in a Rosa minibus that was in the extreme left lane and was closely followed by a Hiace minibus. At one point, both vehicles were driving alongside the car I was in.
I did not want to look rude by staring at the uniformed occupants, but, I was able to steal glances and realised the ‘noisy passengers’ were excited children who were on what I could only assume was a school trip.
However, what astonished me was the number of children in both vehicles; without even attempting to conduct a head count, it was evident to me that both vehicles were quite overloaded. In the Rosa minibus, some children were sitting on each other’s laps while others were standing; none of them were strapped by mandatory seat belts.
The children, who seemed to be between the ages of 10 and 12, were oblivious of the possibility of being seriously injured or killed if one of the vehicles they were travelling in was to be involved in a road traffic accident.
I was left wondering what criteria school administrators use to hire public service vehicles when they have to ferry children around, especially the young ones, when they undertake school trips that now seem to be the norm in most institutions of learning.
As the two vehicles slowly inched forward and took a left turn to join Cairo Road; I proceeded along Great North Road, wondering whether the parents had been given the option of signing consent forms to permit their children to travel on public service vehicles. Though not in this particular case, sometimes children are seen on trips in public service vehicles that look more like death traps than anything else. In certain cases, pre-schoolers can be seen sharing seats and without safety belts to protect them from danger like sudden braking or over speeding.
I believe that although Zambia Police Service and Road Traffic and Safety Agency are mandated to ensure that only drivers or operators who abide by traffic regulations are allowed to travel on the already congested roads; school administrators also have the primary responsibility of ensuring the safety of children under their custody. It is not enough to ensure that children are only kept safe within a school environment but even the safety of children is also of paramount importance when they travel outside school premises for education-related activities. It is imperative that administrators always accord priority to the safety of children, especially in view of the high rate of traffic accidents that public service vehicles are often involved in almost every day.
I hope that administrators have set guidelines to follow when looking to hire public service vehicles for school children because no price should be placed on the head of any child; every life is precious, especially young people who are normally innocent victims when road traffic accidents happen.
Remember, children are our future, until next week, take care.
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