Past few months have been a period of ongoing unrest for me. Rather I would say for most of the parents whose children avail school transport services. On news channels, in newspapers, one can find n number of cases where negligence of school authorities led to the death of innocent children.
My son has just turned 7. He was happy that now he gets the opportunity to be a bus traveller like his cousin (who is 9 and had been telling my little one the tales about time he spends in school bus with his friends). I too sighed a relief knowing there were no pick n drop issues. I could have my morning tea with peace, read the newspaper without being disturbed and happily drop my kid to the bus stop outside our society gates; the very fact that he was in safe hands relaxed me a bit further.
My happiness was short lived or rather, say just about a week. Least did I know my fairy tale days were about to end in a deep regret. My son was endless with complaints, a regular being the ac of the bus was never working; and the other being 10 minutes late arrival of the bus in the afternoon. I dreaded the mornings when I had to drop my son to the bus stop. He would cry hysterically almost every day and beg me to consider making him a walker again. I started counselling him on the issue. And the facts that I learnt were quite disturbing. The driver drives rashly in the afternoons as the bus usually leaves the school premises 10 to 15 minutes late than its usual time; the driver of his bus once banged the bus (later I got to know that his licence was ceased by the parents where the incident happened and he was beaten up badly). More to my astonishment the lady guard misbehaved with me and abused me for asking why the bus was 40 minutes late than its arrival time and why were we not informed for the same (though she was replaced the next day after my complaint, yet there were other issues that needed attention). There were 5 teachers in the bus who acted as mere dummies to the whole drama and did not even have the courtesy to apologize to a panicked parent.
That was the day I thought to myself, if these are the kind of teachers who themselves cannot stand for a cause, what knowledge and self belief are they going to impart to my son and other children who witnessed the incident in the bus. I felt sorry for my son that I had chosen a school with a brand than the one with values.
Life went by making my mornings miserable until summer break started. Things were better as there was no crying for school bus. Then one day before the school was to reopen I got a call from the conductor of my son’s school bus. He fed me with the information about the change in route and the new bus driver’s number; but had no clue of the bus number or the route. I was taken aback! Why was the call not made by the transport in charge or the class teacher herself? Why was only half information passed on?
Later that day what happened left me thinking, is my child really in safe hands? Standing at the bus stop with no trace of bus till 3.40 pm, I panicked and feared almost the worst. There was no information of bus delay from school. The bus that came for pick up that day was not even his regular yellow colour school bus. It was a traveller bus. No one was ready to take our calls, not even the school authorities. All I knew was the bus broke down in the middle of nowhere. I never felt helpless and clueless in my whole life as I felt today.
That’s it! I decided to take things head on. I was tired of complaining about the flaws in school transport system. I wanted strict measures to ensure the safety of my child. I wanted a change! Talking to other parents and friends (kids going to different schools) on the same issue made me feel how laid back our attitude is when it comes to our child’s safety in school bus! Why? What do we fear? And what followed next sent chills down my veins. ‘We don’t want problems for our children in the school. What if we complain against the driver or the guards and they try to harm our kids? What if their school grades suddenly start to drop just because we had some issues with school security measures and we complained?’, came the reply from most of the parents who pitied their situation by making themselves feel powerless and helpless.
Really! I could not buy in the points. It began a new chapter in my life. This gave me a cause to fight for or at least raise my voice and be heard. It was not the question of just my child now. It was for the whole lot of innocent children who travel in school buses thinking they were safe. Were they!
As always google came to my rescue. I began my search to know if there were any transport safety norms that schools should adhere to. I stumbled on one news after the other about how a school’s negligence took an innocent life and left behind grieving parents.
I promised myself I will not hold my anger till a tragedy comes knocking my door. So I decided if I want a change, I will be that change. After a thorough research of 3 days, my laptop is full of articles and regulations on how Supreme Court has strict regulations for schools to follow for providing transport. Even CBSE board also has some transport safety norms that a school has to abide to before the affiliation.
Guessing that, like me, most of you parents out there are unaware of the transport safety regulations laid by both Supreme Court and CBSE board. So for your awareness and knowledge I will pass on as much as I feel as a parent is our right to know. (copied and pasted directly from the website: http://cbseaff.nic.in/cbse_aff/Circulars/cir_school_trans_2012.pdf)
CENTRAL BOARD OF SECONDARY EDUCATION (An Autonomous Organization under the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development Govt. of India)
“SHIKSHA KENDRA”, 2, COMMUNITY CENTRE, PREET VIHAR, DELHI – 110 301 CBSE/AFF/Circular /2012 8th June, 2012 Circular No.01/2012
All the Principals of Schools affiliated with the CBSE
Transport precautions to be observed by Schools
A. Exterior of the Bus
• All the school buses must be painted with uniform colour preferabbly Yellow with the name of the school written prominently on both sides of the bus so that these can be identified easily.
• The word “School Bus” must be written on the back and front of the bus. If it is hired bus, “On School Duty” should be clearly indicated.
• Telephone number of the school and/or telephone number of any contact person shall also have to be written prominently in a prominent place in each school bus so that in case of necessity the public can inform the school authority/police or other authorities.
B. Fixture and furniture of the Bus
• The windows of Bus should be fitted with horizontal grills and with mesh wire.
• The doors of the Bus should be fitted with reliable locks that can be locked.
• All school buses must be fitted with speed control devices so that they do not exceed the speed limit of 40 Kmph.
• There should be a fire extinguisher in the Bus
C. Manpower in the Bus
• There must be a qualified attendant in the Bus to attend to Children.
• Each school should designate one Transport Manager/ Coordinator who will ensure the safety of the school children.
• The provision shall also to be made by the school authorities for travelling of at least one teacher in each school bus, keeping in view the safety of the school students all through out the journey and no outsider except the conductor or the said authorized teacher or one person authorized by the guardians shall be allowed to board school bus. • Medical check up regarding the physical fitness of the driver including the eye testing shall be made every year.
D. Facilities in the Bus • Bus should have a First Aid Box. • To keep the school bags safely, there should be a space fitted under the seatsor as convenient. • The buses should be fitted with alarm bell/siren so that in case of emergency every one can be alerted.
E. Permits • The driver should have valid licence and at least 5 years of experience of driving heavy vehicles. • A driver who has been challaned more than twice in a year for offences like red light jumping, violation of lane discipline or allowing unauthorized person to drive cannot be employed. • A driver who has been challaned even once for the offence of over speeding, driving dangerously or for the offences under Section 279,337,338 and 304A of the Indian Penal Code cannot be employed. • Every vehicle shall carry a suitable photograph of the authorized driver duly certified by the RTA. • Periodical fitness certificate regarding roadworthiness of the vehicle shall have to be obtained. • Any school authority and/or driver found to have violated the provision of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and the rules framed thereunder as well as of the directions must be penalized.
F.Arrangements in the Schools
• All the affiliated schools will make safe arrangement for boarding and deboarding of school children from the school bus.
• The school authority shall ensure that the doors of the buses remain shut while in running condition.
• They will ensure that buses halt only at bus stops designated for the purpose and within the marked area.
• Refresher course of driver training so as to fine tune and increase the proficiency of the driver shall be given to the drivers of the school buses periodically, i.e. least twice in a year.
• No person shall be allowed to drive the school bus in drunken condition. Regular check in the respect shall be undertaken by the school authorities and in case of any doubt in that regard such drivers must be subjected to medical test immediately and proper action including the action for cancellation of the license have to be taken.
• All drivers of the school buses have to be dressed in a distinctive uniform with their names inscribed in it.
• In every school bus there shall be another qualified person to keep attending children travelling in such buses, as conductor, who have to be dressed in distinctive uniform with their names inscribed in it.
• The school authority must provide one set of mobile phone in each school bus so that in case of emergency the bus can be contacted or the driver/conductor can contact the police or State authority as well as the school authority.
• The authority shall ensure that the school buses are not permitted to over take any other four wheelers while carrying the school children in the bus.
• The School authority shall ensure that the students maintain discipline when boarding and disembarking the bus so that no children get hurt.
• Effort shall be made by the school to make necessary arrangement for parking the school bus inside the school campus at least at the time of boarding and disembarking. In case it is not possible to park such vehicle inside the school campus, the buses must be parked in such a way so that it does not create any traffic problem for other vehicles.
• The school should encourage its children to conduct programmes through play, exhibition etc. during Road Safety Week to create an awareness in public.
• Periodic feed-back from students using school Transport facility with regards to driver/conductor be taken and records are to be maintained.
According to my research and knowledge, these norms were passed in the year 2012. Biggest failure was the implementation of the same.
Every year there were new additions in the regulations. Many private schools did not pay any heed to execute the regulations stated and no strict actions by the government against those schools, made it easier for school authorities to slip away with unfortunate incidents that happened due to transport security flaws.
This year (2016) has already been a witness to many unfortunate incidents of student’s death due to school negligence. Considering which the Haryana Government has formulated “Surakshit School Vahan Policy” to ensure safer transportation of school going children in the state. This policy was framed and discussed to be implemented from April.
Under the scheme, it was agreed that the district level committees and the sub-division level committees would ensure that the buses carrying school children complied with the mandatory requirements as per provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and rules framed thereunder, and also adhere to the directions issued by various courts
regarding safer transportation of school going children.
Direction of the Supreme Court of India for School Bus under ‘Surakshit School Vahan Policy’
(information taken from the website: http://www.shadow.net.in/policy.html)
• "School Bus" must be written on the back and front of the Bus.
• If it is a hired bus, "On School Duty" should be clearly indicated
• Bus must have a First-Aid-Box.
• The windows of Bus must be fitted with horizontal grills.
• There must be a Fire Extinguisher in the Bus.
• School Name and Telephone No. must be written on the Bus.
• The doors of the Bus should be fitted with reliable locks.
• To keep School Bags safely, there should be a space fitted under the seats.
• There must be an Attendant from the School in the Bus. School cabs should be fit with speed governors with maximum speed limit of 40 kmph.
• The body of school cab shall be highway yellow colour with a horizontal strip in green colour of 150mm width in the middle all around the vehicle and the words ‘SCHOOL CAB’ must be prominently displayed on all four sides of the vehicle.
• If age of school children is below 12 years, the number of children carried shall not exceed 1½ times the permitted seating capacity. Children above 12 years shall be treated as one person.
• The driver of a school cab must have valid licence to drive LMV-Transport Vehicles for a period of at least four years and compulsorily wear a light blue shirt, light blue trousers and black shoes. His name ID be displayed on the shirt.
• There must be enough space provided to keep school bags inside the vehicle and the bags should not be hung outside the vehicle or placed on roof carriers.
• The bus driver must carry a complete list of the children being ferried in the school cab, indicating the name, class, residential address, blood group and the points of stoppage, route plan, etc.
• In case of kindergarten, if an authorized person recognised mutually by the school and parents, does not come to pick the child from the halting points and such, the child shall be taken back to the school and their parents should be called.
Because of the incidents happening around there have been rules made on school bus management by the concerned authorities in India to assure safety and secure ride for the students and relief for parents.
• GPS and CCTV have been made compulsory in school buses. Installation of CCTV in school premises are made compulsory. GPS has been declared compulsory by Central Board of Secondary Education.
• School bus drivers are restricted to have interaction with students beyond a limit in school bus and socializing with students is also limited.
• Entering school grounds are restricted to authorized people. Any person suspicious entering the school premises will be reported without fail.
• ID cards are issued to parents, which must be bought while picking up their children. If they cannot come for picking up their children, an SMS must be send authorizing another person to pick them up.
Under section 188 Act of the Indian Penal Code, any failure on the school’s behalf to obey these new rules and regulations can lead to punishment.
More and more rules are coming in to light for the better travel experience of students.
Standard Requirements for School Buses in India
• All school buses in India are mandated to have an external colour of Golden Yellow. This colour shall be as per IS 5 -1994 (as amended from time to time)
• For Identification, a band of 150mm wide of ‘Golden Brown ‘colour might be provided on all sides of the bus below the window level
• Two emergency exits are mandatory on all school buses in India. One on the rear half of the bus on the right hand side and on the rear side of the bus. Children should be trained to operate these doors.
• Whenever the bus passenger door or one of the emergency exits is open, the bus should be incapable of motion. The driver should get an indication of the doors being open by means of flashing light/buzzer or other suitable means.
• The lowest footstep height shall not be more than 220mm from ground. The bus should be incapable of motion without folding or retracting the steps
• All seats other than the ones facing the passenger step well should be forward facing. Also, a partition should be provided to the seat facing the step well.
• Stopping signals, a hazard warning and a stop signal arm should operate whenever the passenger door opens.
• A tamper-proof speed governor that complies with the requirements of Rule 118 of CMV (A)R 1989 should be provided to ensure the driver doesn’t cross the speed limit.
Any parent/guardian or a teacher may also travel to ensure these safety norms.
Gathering the information was easier. Thanks to my love for computers and my interest in google to raise my awareness on the same; and now yours to an extent. But this is just the beginning. Break through would come when more and more parents will become aware of their right to demand safety for their children in school and the school transport system; when more and more parents would be willing to listen to their children, acknowledge their problems and notify the school administration of any offence or negligence from the driver.
Time and again I have heard the quote or read it somewhere, sometime ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. I have tried my best to be that change by raising my voice on the most sensitive issue ‘our children and their security in schools’. The least you can do to see things change for good is to share this article, raise awareness among other parents, become the voice of your child if and when a situation arise.
Don’t wait for the tragedy to come knocking your door. Don’t wait for the candle march’s to get justice for your children.
Wake up now! Be the Change to See the World Change!