Hardly a month goes by before a matatu, bus or lorryload of school kids is involved in a road accident. Innocent lives have been lost and children maimed.
The accidents occur mainly as students are transported to and from extra-curricular activities such as sports meetings and music and drama festivals.
This brings to question the competence of school drivers. Are they influenced by the carnival mood to the extent that they overspeed and overtake recklessly? Or is it that the roadworthiness of many of the matatus, buses and lorries owned or hired by schools is questionable?
There is also the question of compensation for lives lost and injuries sustained, though this is not much of consolation to the bereaved.
It is mandatory that all motor vehicles, and in particular passenger vehicles, are fully insured. As to whether the victims of these accidents have been compensated, we can only hazard a guess.
This in itself is a pointer to the danger Kenyans face. They have not only accepted the carnage on the roads but have also failed miserably to follow up the innumerable accidents on our roads. Kenyan lives, it would seem, are getting cheaper by the day.
The mere arrest and prosecution of reckless drivers is not enough. There is the issue of precautions and safeguards to ensure that the slaughter and maiming of our school pupils – children whose safety parents have entrusted to schools – is no more. The Ministry of Education could ensure this by drawing up guidelines for the mode and manner of transportation to be used.
Guidelines should include a ban on the use of lorries for school transport and night travel. Buses and matatus must not only be roadworthy and carry speed governors but must also be comprehensively insured. Drivers must have accident-free records and teachers appointed to accompany students must be selected from among the most disciplined.
Equally important is prior parental consent for such trips. We would rather that school administrators suffered the hustle of enforcing this rule than expose students to the dangers that lurk on our roads.
Life, even in a country as impoverished as ours, is sacrosanct and must not be sacrificed at the altar of mismanagement and negligence.