The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has urged parents and stakeholders in the education sector to ensure standards in school bus operations to ensure the safety of school children.
FRSC Lagos Sector Commander, Hyginus Omeje, made the call at a Sensitisation and Implementation of Approved Standards for School Buses in Nigeria held in Lagos.
According to Omeje, the issue of safety is all-encompassing, hence the need to infuse traffic and road safety education in our school curriculum and ensure standards in school buses operations.
He said: “How do we improve on the way pupils are transported to and fro schools? How do we move forward on the issue of buses carrying children?
“The road safety project is not limited to those of us wearing uniform. We should ask ourselves what we are doing as regulators. All of us are stakeholders. We cannot spend too much safeguarding the lives of our children.
“How do we implement these standards, we want the ministry to tap into it. Lagos should help as a centre of excellence to champion these standards.
“If the Ministry of Education, as regulators, is not willing to take the bull by the horn, no proprietor of schools will be willing to do it. We want the ministry to help us, we are talking about the security and safety of our children
“If there is an issue we need to have a political will to address, it should be an issue that has to do with the future generation, our children. The issue has been with implementation because that will is lacking.”
He said that the FRSC had good plans for school buses which had not been so successful in implementation in several states, including Lagos.
Omeje said that the corps was looking forward to commencing annual school bus drivers and assistant awards to promote professionalism and dedication to duty.
He added that the way schools were sited in the state had not been good enough and posed a huge risk to school children, saying road network and furniture must be in place around schools.
According to him, all accidents on our roads can be traceable to three main factors, human, mechanical and environment and that 80 person of accidents are as a result of human factor.
The sector commander decried the poor conditions of school buses, reckless driving by school bus drivers, speeding, overloading and packing of children like sardines.
Omeje said that government could buy standard buses and lease it out to schools or allow investors to bring in buses and run them for the overall safety of school children instead of allowing rickety school buses to carry children.
According to him, this idea will not only reduce road traffic congestion but also contribute to the safety and security of school children in the state,
On drivers, Omeje urged the ministry to partner with the FRSC in recruiting drivers and their assistants and avail the corps of the database of all schools operating school buses for refreshers programmes.
He called on the ministry to bring in FRSC in its strong protocol list to leverage on some of the ministry’s meetings and interactions with different stakeholders to further use such platforms for traffic and safety education.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mrs Abosede Adelaja, who commended the FRSC’s commitment to school children’s safety, said that the issue of traffic and road safety was paramount to the ministry.
Adelaja, who was represented by Mrs Esther Adegbamigbe, said that the ministry of education was ready to partner with FRSC on the project to further enhance the safety and security of school children.
She added that the ministry had succeeded in infusing traffic and road safety education in the school subjects like English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Civil and Security Education, among others, to enhance safety.
The permanent secretary added that book publishers had also engaged in what should be in books to further entrench road safety and traffic education among children.
In his presentation on standard school buses’ operations, Mr Morakinyo Kolawole, the FRSC Youth Education Officer, said that school buses should have WiFi and tracking devices.
Kolawole said that all school buses should have a uniform colour both interior and exterior and conspicuously marked “School Bus”, adding that school buses had type A, B, C with drivers and assistant drivers.
He urged school owners to consider qualification, competence, professionalism, medical fitness, mental health and experience when recruiting school drivers and assistants and ensure constant check and upgrading.