School vehicle safety not topmost on parents' mind

PTAs prompt to protest fee hike, but do not take up issue of school bus safety despite mishaps in past few months

A School van carrying 17 children swerved off the road injuring four children on Tuesday. And this was not a one-off case in the city in the past few months. Yet, parents have considered it scant necessary to bring to the notice of school managements the dilapidated buses that transport their children daily to the schools.
No Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) of any of the leading schools in the city has raked up the issue of safe transport with school managements so far.

Cause for concern: Many vehicels transporting children to school
blatantly flout RTO rules. Representation pic

Although PTA members were not able to give satisfactory answers regarding the issue, they pointed out towards the lack of unity among parents saying most preferred to avoid a dust-up with the school managements fearing backlash. Besides, the school van accident on Katraj-Dehu Road, around mid-June, a stationary private school bus in Pimpri-Chinchwad suddenly caught fire. 

Luckily, no children were in the bus. Sayyad Shaheralli, a PTA member from the Rosary School in Camp, said not every school has a PTA which therefore makes it difficult to bring up such issues. "Schools ask parents to take care of the transport and wash their hands off the issue," Shaheralli said. "Thus we have to arrange private transport facilities which are again unreliable. Managements also appoint puppets in PTA committees, who force parents to toe the school's line."

Mateen Mujawar, a PTA member from the Rosary School, too pointed out towards lack of unanimity among parents. Thus parents end up arranging unsafe transport for their wards, he said. The incident on Tuesday involved a private van arranged by parents. When this was pointed out, Mujawar promised the issue would be taken up by the PTAs soon.

"The state has now come out with a clear policy on the issue and this will give the law more teeth. Schools sometimes harass children in class or fail them when parents rake up issues, making them wary of getting into a dispute with the management," he said. Kanchan Kude, another PTA member said parents barely attended the PTA meetings because of which the issue has been ignored. "Along with fee hikes, the transport issue too would have been solved by now if parents had demanded in one voice," she said.

Sanjay Dhaygude, deputy regional transport officer, said that around 25 schools have written to the authority asking for details of the school transport committees that were to be formed. "We have promptly replied to them about the designated RTO inspector who will be part of the committee along with his contact details," he said. "The RTO has appointed a single inspector in each PMC wards who will be part of every committee in that school. The RTO has always held that irrespective of the ownership of the buses, it is the school's responsibility to look into the issue."

Transport panel
The state government's latest GR stipulates the formation of a school transport committee which should include the school principal, an RTO officer, a traffic police officer, an official from the PMC's education department, one PTA member and a representative from the private bus operator.

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