February 13, 2018 will forever remain indelible in the life of the relatives of 22 secondary school pupils that died in an accident between Maitama Sule College and Dudduru village in Gaya town, about 65 kilometers from Kano.
The 18-seater bus conveying the students and some staff on excursion to a radio station in Kano from Bauchi at about 11a.m had a head-on collision with an articulated vehicle carrying tomatoes while they were both trying to avoid a pothole, leading to the death of the pupils.
Another unfortunate incident happened on Tuesday, October 17, when according to reports, the vehicle conveying school children with other passengers in Abuja was hit by a truck, killing two little children and leaving other passengers wounded.
For two families who lost their children in a school bus that caught fire at Trade Moore Estate, Lugbe, along Airport Road in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, February 1, 2018, will also always be a sad day to remember. The two of the children aged three and five were said to have died at the scene of the incident while the third child aged two was transferred to an intensive care unit of a hospital.
Also, a school bus rammed into a stationary waste disposal truck along LASU-Isheri Road, Lagos on June 12, 2017, injuring four students in the process.
Preliminary reports in the cases highlighted above identified causes of the accidents as bad roads, mechanical vehicle fault, over speeding, and carelessness on the part of the drivers.
Most likely, some of this tragic incidents could have been averted if the conditions of the road in question, and by extension other Nigerian roads, were motorable.
However, since the roads remain in deplorable condition, calamities such as this can be avoided if only school authorities pay due attention to school safety while commuting them, especially on excursions.
It is needless to say that most schools do not take into cognisance the bad roads, distance, drivers and type of vehicles to use while commuting school children.
Excursions are for recreational and fun purposes, yet most excursions embarked upon by some schools end up being the opposite.
In some instances, it is either the distance travelled is too far, considering the bad roads condition in Nigeria, or the drivers employed for this purpose are not properly tried and tested.
Some drivers are not capable of long distance driving while the vehicles some schools use in conveying students are not fit for the purposes for which they are deployed.
In the first tragic case related above, using an 18-seater bus for conveying 22 students and several staff is a pointer to laxity in safety procedures.
Safety Record Newspaper reached out to school safety professionals who provided insights into safety tips for commuting school pupils for excursion.
Speaking about the Kano incident, a school safety professional, Ugochi Obidiegwu, said, “It was a really sad incident; however, we cannot totally rule out excursion in child education.
“Excursions have been proven to reinforce what teachers have taught in class, expose children to new environment and help children retain knowledge.”
However, she harped on the need for schools to put in place control measures to prevent safety disasters while commuting school children.
She said, “Therefore we can only put control measures in place, it is important to point out here that control measures are not just things to be brought out on a whim but should be in use over time. This is because it helps you monitor situations for further action.
“Using the example of this accident, newspaper reports say the driver was driving too fast and that was part of the things that led to the collision.
“Now, a driver driving too fast did not start that day, this is most likely ‘his way’ of driving, so it’s a habit.
“If he was the school bus driver, this should have been discovered long ago and a check should have been put in place, in this case he wouldn’t have been the preferred driver for an excursion knowing his tendencies and knowing the school wants its students safe.
“Schools should have a medium of certifying their drivers before handing over children to them, considering this might be tough in this part of the world, then it is important for all schools to have their own buses and ensure drivers are monitored regularly for compliance.
“As an added check for school bus drivers employed by the school, I would suggest what I suggested to some school owners in Abuja recently after a school bus incident in Lugbe.
“Each bus should have a student as a bus rep. The driver and the teacher assigned to the bus do not necessarily have to know who that student is – just the school management. Every time the students get on bus, the bus rep would take note of the driver’s speed, the driver’s attitude, the volume of music and other important metrics.
“This would help the school management know the actual performance of the drivers and know who is more suitable for the safety of children. When the drivers know they are being monitored, it would keep them in check.
“After checking the human factor, we need to ensure that buses are routinely maintained, how many schools have a maintenance schedule? Do they wait for something to go wrong before checking?
“It is important for schools to not just have their buses but ensure that there are routine inspections and scheduled maintenance. This will ensure buses are in good condition and all parts are working effectively.
“On distance, I would say it is better to always choose a close alternative, and if any school has to go somewhere far, then it is imperative to use the safest and most comfortable means of travel.”
In her reaction, the Director, Enforcement and Compliance, Lagos State Safety Commission, Mrs Ronke Odeneye, advocated for a pre-journey audit before embarking on commuting school children for excursions.
She said, “As part of school safety general rules, all the parts of the vehicle to be used must be checked thoroughly to make sure that the vehicle to be used is okay.
“School management should also endeavor to go on a pre-journey audit; these means that they should have visited the excursion site ahead of the due date and access the road to ensure that it is a safe place for students to visit.
“A pre-journey audit would also enable them know if they have been well prepared for the number of pupils coming and would ensure that they have done enough ground work before the excursion.
“If the roads are bad, an alternative route should be sought. Moreover, it is not a must to go on an excursion if the road leading to the site is bad as it is better to keep the students safe and alive.
“Short distance is also preferable considering the condition of our roads.”