A Policy for Safe Transport of School Children
The year was 2002, as a mother of a school going child in the city of Mumbai, I had felt very strongly that there is an urgent need to have in place an orderly safe, secure and efficient transportation system for our school children.
This is more particularly relevant for schools located in congested areas and with limited road access.
Further, the congestion of Mumbai roads is a huge problem and addressing this vexatious issue is a challenge which requires to be dealt with firmly.
The residents of Little Gibbs Roads, in Malabar Hill, a quiet residential area, complained to me, (as I am the Secretary of the ALM of Little Gibbs Roads) about the terrible congestion caused by cars dropping and picking up children from the nearby Cathedral and John Connon Infant School.
Similarly in the Fort area, where the rest of the School is located, the offices situated around the schools were up in arms, complaining to the Principal Mrs. Meera Isaacs.
My motto has always been to work in partnership with the Statutory Authorities and engage all the stakeholders of any project I take up. So, I took the initiative to address this problem and met the then Deputy Commissioner of Police, Traffic, Mr. Himanshu Roy and together we visited the sites during the peak congestion hours, to see for ourselves the prevailing situation and suggest possible options.
Mr. Roy and I discussed various options and narrowed them down to a single proposal i.e. putting more children on school buses.
Principal Mrs. Meera Isaacs promptly agreed with the proposal that all children should avail of the bus service provided by the school.
I observed that the existing bus service of the school was grossly inadequate for the project, only 24 per cent of the students used the school bus service! Parents preferred to use their vehicles to drop and pick up their children because the buses often took long-winding routes and the buses were in deplorable condition. This was the state of affairs in all schools in Mumbai.
Thereafter, I set about preparing the concept paper and the process to implement a Model School Bus Service which would address the issues of Safety, Security and Efficiency of Transporting the School Children.
Each one of us has some unique ability which helps us to achieve our goals. We need to identify that ability and use it.
Mine was in coordination and figuring out ways to solve problems and tackle vexatious issues!
As per my concept document, the school issued various circulars to parents and data such as addresses and other relevant details was obtained and collated. All this information of the students was fed into the software programmed to my particular specifications.
On the other hand a Common Standard Agreement including rules, services, and conditions based on which penalties to be levied etc. was drawn up, which was signed by the Principal on behalf of the Student Body, and each Contractor.
From the data obtained from the students, the bus routes were formulated with certain criteria suggested by me and agreed by the School Principal and the Bus Contractors and the routes were finalised incorporating the agreed premises.
The service commenced on 6th June 2002. It has been well accepted by the parents and the student body, although there was some initial resistance. 94.15 % of the students got on the bus.
After all of this let us see what social benefits did this Service achieve?
- Reduced traffic congestion achieving free flowing vehicular traffic around the schools.
- Reduced noise and air pollution for students, residents and the general public in areas around the schools.
- Children from a young age learnt to use a form of public transport, a habit, which will stay with them for later years.
- Children of various socio economic backgrounds came together in a common conveyance.
- Fostered closeness and good fellowship and a sense of participation and inclusiveness.
- Inculcated a sense of adhering to fixed times thereby teaching Time Management.
It was now necessary to make it possible for all types of schools with children of various economic backgrounds to avail of a School Bus Service which is Safe, Secure and Efficient. The only way was to make this Model Service a Policy of the Government.
In 2008 the then Principal Secretary Transport invited me to make a presentation of the Model School Bus Service. The government officials had realized that this tried and tested Model would be the basis of formulating Safe and Coordinated Transportation of school children in the State of Maharashtra. Accordingly, a Government Committee was formed consisting of various top bureaucrats and myself through a Government Resolution (GR),
It is now 2014, and the work has not yet ended; even though the Policy has become operational I am determined to see that the Policy is implemented correctly. What I started as a Model School Bus Service in a single School, born out of a necessity to solve a problem, has turned out to be a first of its kind Policy of the State Government.
To view the original Policy Document with the “Rules and Regulations 2011”given to the Education Department click here.
To view the Policy that was finally published by the Education Department, in Marathi and English click here.
To view the notification by the Home Department (for RTO), School Bus Policy “Rules and Regulations 2011″ dated 22nd March 2011 click here.
My firm belief– Work at achievable goals and start a movement, you will then find the will and power to sustain it.
The Author, Indrani Malkani, is the Managing Trustee of V Citizens Action Network (VCAN) and is an Ashoka Fellow
Tags: Child Safety