The safety of the children in and outside the home is of real concern for all of us specially when they are travelling from home to school and back. Not only this the traffic on roads particularly in the cities has reached a situation that if corrective and preventive measures are not taken immediately, it will prove to be extremely dangerous to all in general and the school going kids in particular. The number of vehicles on road nearly doubles in every five years but the width of the road remains the same thereby causing bottle-necks at every short distance. To add to this sorry state of affairs, there are traffic rules which are frequently violated. In this condition, the children are the most vulnerable group whether they are on the roads or commuting to and fro the school. The Supreme Court of India has clearly mentioned the guidelines for the safety and security of school going children particularly while they are travelling by school buses. Most of the schools hire the buses on contract and others have their own buses for the transportation of the students. The education for the children is important but at the same time the safety and health of the children is of prime concern for the parents as well as the schools. We come across many grievous news reports in the newspapers now and then regarding the difficulties faced by the children in the school or in the buses while travelling to and from schools. Everybody is concerned regarding the safety of the children and a lot has been done in this area but much more is required to be done. The recent news of an accident in which a child lost his life just because he was not watchful for his safety, has disillusioned the society. Before this also there have been casualties because of the fault of the driver or the child himself. Whosoever was responsible for unfortunate incident, an innocent life was lost which is a great loss not only to the parents of child but also to the nation. Whenever such incidents take place everybody shows a lot of concern and all remember and remind themselves about the safety guidelines of the honourable Supreme Court and blame game continues for a few days to be forgotten till the next similar unfortunate incident takes place.
Earlier the role of the school and school teachers was limited to imparting education in the school and not really about the commutation of the students. They were concerned for their safety on school campus and by and large they were able to perform their duties quite well. In the last few years, when the schools started to be established at a distance from the main city because of the scarcity of land available within city limits the school buses became an important means of transporting the children because it was not possible for the parents to do the pick-up and drop for their kids every day. Also the children cannot reach school on their own because of the distance and mainly due to the traffic menace in our country. As all schools cannot afford to possess their own buses hence the transporters are approached for the sake of helping the children and parents. Most of the buses employed by such transport contractors are those which ply on city routes also, so it becomes difficult for the school to ensure all the safety measures. But within these limitations, the safety of the children can be advanced by taking simple corrective measures like having the first aid box, a helper/support staff in addition to driver so that they can have proper watch on the activities of the children in the bus and also while they board and get down from the bus. The safety grills are extremely important and should be ensured in all buses irrespective of whether these are school owned buses or hired buses. The drivers and the helpers should be counselled on regular basis so that they understand the requirements and problems of the children better. A speed limit check of 40 kilometers an hour is equally imperative to be maintained. The schools and parents must continuously talk to the children regarding the precautions they can take while travelling by the buses. One thing which I found missing in the discussions which takes place on safety of the school children is, the awareness among the children for their own careful conduct and self discipline. Every time the blame is put on the school bus driver, teachers, school authorities or somebody else without mentioning anything for the child. In the incident which I mentioned above, the child took his head out of the bus window for some reason and suddenly got hit by pole outside. Now even if there were many teachers in the bus and the child had done the same, all of a sudden nobody would have been able to predict and stop the child. What I want to convey here is that we have to make our children more aware of the safety measures to be taken by them which can help to save them from many unfortunate incidents. At the same time the schools and teachers must learn from such unfortunate incidents and try their level best to create a safe environment as at times the safety of the children is jeopardised because of their slackness. It is the responsibility of the teachers and parents to teach and guide children the lessons of self safety self. It has been found that the children do not listen to the helper and at times even the teachers in the buses and put themselves in a dangerous situation. I remember one incident in which two children sitting by the window side were playing some game to exhibit their strength to each other and when the bus slowed down because of some obstruction in front, the children got imbalanced and one of them got multiple fractures in his elbow . Now in this case no other person could have been responsible for the incident but the children themselves.
Even in the school campus the safety of the children should be paid more attention to, more than what is being done today. As the number of students in Indian schools is in many thousands hence it becomes all the more important for everyone particularly the school management and teachers to ensure that our children are safe while they are in the school. They should be trained and taught of the ways they should walk through the corridors and inside the classrooms. The furniture should be designed in such a manner so as not to hurt the active children of the school. More precautions should be taken at the time of dispersal of the children after the school is over because at that time all of them want to be the first to get a better seat and in the process they tend to push each other and run. In this they themselves might get hurt or may hurt others also. The teachers should be around and with the children to guide and check them. If this is done for sometime then the children will inculcate the habit of walking properly towards the buses.
In the end, I would like to say that no one person/agency can be held responsible for any unfortunate incident but at the same time this is sure that if we all work sincerely (including children) then the safety of the children can be ensured to the maximum and that is what all of us want. So in spite of blaming others, we must play our role actively and to the best of our ability. By teaching the basic life skills, guiding them to develop the sense of right and wrong, imbibing self-realization and self discipline, perhaps a greater safety can be ensured. Wishing a safe and happy schooling to all the children.