Students injured in accident. There’s more to this story.

Ref. Daily Monitor, June 19, 2015

Isaac Kali Irakuza, a student of Kigezi High School in May died at Mulago hospital where he was admitted with injuries sustained in an accident. The 19-year-old, as the New Vision reports, was injured together with 59 of his schoolmates, many who were also seriously wounded. The paper adds that the group was returning from a geography study tour in Kasese and Fort Portal when the driver of the bus they were travelling in, failed to negotiate a bend.

Earlier this month, 34 students of Gogonyo Seed Secondary School in Pallisa District were involved in an accident as they travelled for a sporting competition, according to Uganda Radio Network. On Tuesday this week, 75 students of Kiganda Secondary School sustained injuries after the lorry they were travelling in overturned, according to a Daily Monitor report. The students were on their way to join in celebrations to mark the Day of the African Child.

The officer in charge of Kasambya Police Station, Mr Patrick Zabihekire, blamed the Kiganda accident on the flouting of the traffic regulations. He categorically stated that transporting students in lorries is illegal.

If this is the case, then why is it not being followed? One would expect the school authorities to have a better idea about road safety rules. Were they, including the lorry driver, ignorant of this guideline?

While Uganda’s poor road safety record is well known, it is commendable that the media does not consider traffic fatalities as commonplace and gives them the coverage they deserve.

That said more could be done to report on the cause of the accidents and to present possible solutions to stem the tide.

Have any school authorities been held to account for the poor performance of the drivers? Have either punitive or correctional charges been brought against the drivers or other offending road users? To what effect?

What lessons about students’ transportation have schools around the country learned? What innovations to ensure students’ safety are in place?

Insurance companies like AIG recently introduced student personal accident insurance cover. What is the performance of this and similar insurance packages? Does this performance indicate parents’ growing or declining confidence in the transportation schools provide?

In 2014, a verification exercise by Uganda Police and the Transport and Licensing Board, that was reported on by the Daily Monitor found that out of the 1,000 bus drivers presented for vetting, only 534 were competent. Has a similar vetting been done for school drivers? What qualifications, apart from acquiring a driver’s license, are school bus and lorry drivers required to have? Is their performance regularly assessed? If so, by whom?

Of course an investigation into road safety is incomplete without considering the condition of Uganda’s roads and the vehicles traversing the country.

It goes without saying that the safety of students on the road is of great concern and there is more to this story than news about another avoidable death of children.

Photo credit: Daily Monitor

Harriet Anena

Harriet Anena is ACME’s Special Projects Officer

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