Public policy and debates on education often revolve around access, quality and performance in national examinations.
Scarcely do the discussions focus on the safety of learners in schools, except when misfortunes like fire occur. With renewed focus on enhancing access and transition, it is imperative to review the social contexts under which schools operate.
On Friday, acting Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i issued a number of directives intended to consolidate gains in revitalising the education sector, among them the safety of learners.
Among others, he directed that all school buses must be painted in a uniform colour — yellow — by March to distinguish them from other vehicles. The objective is to give them identity and make them recognisable, which makes it easy to assist them whenever there is a problem.
However, school principals have raised the question of cash for repainting the buses because they do not have votehead for that.
Given the strict policies on fees and use of government capitation, the Education ministry should explain to schools how to raise the money for that expenditure. Perhaps, the ministry should allocate some funds for that and use relevant government institutions to do the work.
In the same breadth, all school buses will not be allowed to move at night, strictly operating between 6am to 6pm; which directive reinforces the ban already placed on public service vehicles by the National Transport and Safety Authority. There is wisdom in discouraging night travels because they are fraught with perils.
We have seen school buses involved in road accidents at night. But that does not mean it is the panacea to mayhem on the road.
Of concern, however, is a situation where the buses may be caught in traffic long jams and unable to reach their destinations before the designated time — do the buses stop immediately? And what happens to the students? What happens to school buses in Nairobi, which are often caught in the perennial city gridlock?
The ministry should issue proper guidelines to clarify the grey areas and make it possible for the schools to enforce the directives.