School transport concern resurfaces after boy’s deathGuardians complain schools in the Valley are not enforcing rules to guarantee the safety of students on board.
Safety of schoolchildren has become an everyday concern of parents in Kathmandu these days.
A 13-year-old boy got killed in a school bus-related incident in the Capital. On Wednesday, the boy was travelling to Gongabu on his way back from school when he craned his neck out of the bus and smashed his head against a tree at Lazimpat.
Amid chaotic road traffic and choked walkways, safe commute is of paramount concern. One of the ways the parents try to ensure their children’s safety is using buses operated by schools which pick up and drop students at fixed points.
According to Metropolitan Police Circle Lazimpat, the seriously-injured Ayushman Dahal, a fifth grader at Lazimpat based Best’s Montessori Chain of School, was rushed to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital on Wednesday afternoon. He succumbed to his injuries while undergoing treatment at the hospital on Thursday.
Following the accident, the police took the bus driver, Roshan Adhikari, 30, into custody for investigation.
“Our preliminary investigation showed that both the driver and the school are responsible. We are still in consultation with the parents of the deceased child and the school management. We are struggling to settle the issue,” said an officer from the Lazimpat Police Circle who didn't want his identity disclosed.
Rajendra Prasad Bhatta, spokesperson for the Kathmandu Valley Traffic Police Office, said the incident was “dreadful and unfortunate”.
“If only the school had been more concerned about students’ safety, such an incident could have been avoided,” said Bhatta. He declined to get into the specifics of the negligence in this case as the investigation was ongoing.
Every day, hundreds of school buses run across the Valley, picking up and dropping children door to door, but many bus operators don’t follow the rules.
According to the Institutional School Criteria and Operation Directorate Act 2069 BS (2012), buses carrying students should be painted orange and each school should set the criteria to ensure safety and proper management of students while commuting.
“Unfortunately, [in this case] the school management didn’t follow the rules,” said Suprabhat Bhandari, chairperson of the Guardians’ Association Nepal.
“If only that particular school had observed how the bus was being operated, this dreadful accident could have been avoided,” said Bhandari. “As school buses carry small kids, the bus operator and assistants should be more careful in ensuring their safety.”
The Post’s multiple attempts to contact representatives of Best’s Montessori chain of schools to get a response over the incident failed.
Bhandari also complained that schools often cram kids into their buses and drivers often indulge in reckless driving while the students are still on board.
“School buses should be the safest mode of transport, but that’s not the case here,” Bhandari said.
Just two months ago, traffic police, while conducting a surprise check, had caught at least five school bus drivers drink-driving with students on board. Since then, the traffic police have arrested more than three dozen such school bus drivers in the Valley.
After a massive media coverage and complains from parents over the issue, in the first week of September, the traffic police conducted a campaign against drink driving and made the checking of school buses more effective in coordination with the Private and Boarding School Organisation Nepal (PABSON) and the National Private and Boarding School Association Nepal (N-PABSAN), but Wednesday’s incident has raised eyebrows.
“This once again is a wake-up call for all of us,” said DK Dhungana, chairperson at PABSON. “We had run an awareness programme against drink-driving with the help of traffic police. Now we will immediately hold a meeting and send a circular to all the schools to caution bus drivers and helpers.”
Guardians’ Association Nepal, however, doesn’t believe PABSON’s assurances.
“They just make promises when there is an incident. They forget it within days and don’t take any action,” alleged Chairman Bhandari.