School Cabs violate every rule in book Responsibility of students commuting by cabs is divided between parents & private agencies No single authority is accountable Empowered with awareness of safety norms children learnt to safeguard themselves.
“School van overturns, Two kids suffer serious injuries” – Times of India Daily Newspaper
“Private Van carrying school children turned turtle in Mangolpuri, Delhi on January 31, 2018” – Times of India Daily Newspaper
“School Vans violate every rule in book” reported in the Times of India Delhi Newspaper on July 29, 2017 – Times of India Daily Newspaper
Members of Road Safety Club were disturbed by the news reports as quoted above and realized that vans are highly unsafe for the school children. Vans are hired from private vendors/agencies by the parents. Since it is an arrangement between parents and van operators the school does not supervise the operation of the private vans.
Students shared experiences that unsafe journey to/from school causes anxiety to parents as well as children. It was discussed that message about children's absence from school can reduce the anxiety of parents. This practice was implemented for a while but it was not a solution to the risk involved in commuting by van. We soon realized that priority in our approach should be making van/cab journey safe. In the Road Safety Club meeting some students talked about unsafe buses as well. However, it was felt school buses are still safe because these ply under the supervision of school authorities. On the basis of the news reports stated above and the school incident involving a school student of primary class running after a moving van, it was decided that we must focus our attention on the issue of Safety in Vans for School Children.
In the club meeting held in mid July 2017, our friends shared the following experiences.
“We feel suffocated in vans because of overcrowding. We complain to our van driver but he lends a deaf ear”. “Yesterday we were made to change our van in the middle of the route. It was so unsafe waiting on the road till the other van came and we boarded it to reach home.” “I saw that one student of class three was made to sit in the lap of a senior student.” “I was shocked to see the tyre of a cab ahead go flat, the speeding vehicle lost balance and hit the divider. It could have resulted in a serious accident.”
Again during our club period in the third week of July we presented these concerns before the other members. Members were divided into groups by our teacher-project coordinators to talk to different stakeholders and collect information. Each team was instructed to maintain a daily diary of their observations and findings. Team A took the responsibility to observe at the departure time of primary students (7-10 year old). Team B took the responsibility of talking to teachers to understand the problems faced by them. Team C went ahead with interacting with parents on the day of Parents-Teachers Meet to know their concerns. Team D discussed this matter with the Principal and transport in-charge to understand the challenges and finding possible solutions.
In the first week of August, all team members presented their observations. A symposium was organized. Each team made a presentation. The audience asked questions to develop an understanding on the issue of vulnerability of students in vans.
Many other risks were identified which posed a threat to student’s safety and required urgent attention.
- Overcrowding in vans. In a six seater van 8-16 students are accommodated depending upon the age group of children commuting.
- Untrained van drivers. Also, drivers not holding valid license are often engaged by operators at low salary.
- Untrained van drivers to complete multiple trips to earn more profit.
- Students are either dropped very early to school or picked up very late from school. In each situation students are unsafe on the road which is 250 meters away from the school building. It is a main road on which heavy vehicular traffic also moves.
- Van fitted with local and substandard CNG kits. More often they are with LPG (liquid petroleum gas) cylinder. This can catch fire.
- Children’s bags are kept in a carrier on the roof top of the van. It is risky when they stand with their back towards the road to take out their bags.
- Some vans ply with their boot open as they are fitted with make-shift benches to add more seats.
- Other risky behaviors include
- Bullying by senior students.
- Change of van and sometimes change of drivers in the middle of the route
- Girl student sitting with the van driver or a younger student sitting in the lap of a senior facing the risk of bad touch.
Crystallizing our Goal
It is imperative that school brings students, parents and van operators on a common platform to sensitize all towards safe mobility of students travelling by van. Keeping in view that no single body can be held accountable for the safety of students commuting by private vans. Parents busy in their daily routine are lackadaisical in their approach. Primary focus of the van operators is increasing the margin of profit. Since it is an arrangement between parents and van operators, school cannot exercise any control over their activities. School must take an initiative to bring them together to overcome the challenges mentioned above.
Protecting children in their journey to and from school improves life chances and educational opportunity, reduces the risk of road traffic injury and encourages healthy mobility choices in future generation.
To fulfill this goal of safe journey by van a number of initiatives were taken.
- A data of students who commute by private van was collected from classes Nursery to XII. Approximately 2000 students are van users and 50 vans ply on different routes. Being a huge number it was necessary that van drivers and parents are sensitized towards safety issues and safety norms.
A circular was issued to all parents - videlicet circular number SRDAV/PR/CR 2017-18/135, May 12, 2017 - whose wards travel to school by Private Vans hired by them. They were apprised of safety norms issued by Traffic Police. Advisory issued to parents to be vigilant about safety of their wards. It is observed that students at times do not show the circular to parents, so acknowledgement of the same was requested from parents.
- To interact with Road Safety Club Volunteers, Road Safety Trainer’s Meeting was held to prepare an action plan. It was decided that all stake holders must be actively engaged as actors of prevention.
- Team B decided to meet the actors of prevention to look for possible solutions. On interaction with Principal & Transport Incharge came to a conclusion that parents adopt an apathetic attitude towards the van driver and the condition of the van in which their wards commute. According to parents van operators threaten to withdraw the facility of picking and dropping from the door step if they insist upon reducing the number of commuters in the van. Parents claimed that the behaviour of the van operator is arbitrary. On the other hand van operator alleged that if they reduce the number of commuters per trip transportation fee has to be hiked to make it commercially viable. Parents were not willing to pay more. So to resolve this conflict and to overcome the issue of overcrowding in vans and to fix responsibility of ownership of safety, Principal felt that a common meeting of parents and van drivers should be called on September 20, 2017 first open house was organized. An open house is an event where the institutes’ doors are open for the general public (parents and van drivers in our case) for an interaction to discuss certain issues about safety norms for drivers and parents concern. Traffic inspector of our area, SHO (Station House Officer) police station Anand Vihar and beat constable of the area were invited to address the gathering of parents and van drivers. Attendance of van drivers was taken to ensure their presence in this meeting. 78 van drivers and 200 parents were present in this meeting. Collection of Van Drivers’ Personal Information - It was resolved that van drivers will provide a copy of their valid Identity Proof, Vehicle Number and Driving License Number on a proforma to avoid change of drivers in the middle of the route. A copy of the same was signed by parents to ensure recognition of driver by them.
Parents were requested to occasionally accompany the van route for better supervision.
An Action Plan was developed to spread awareness among our peer group. During the discussion some more issues emerged: van drivers do not follow traffic rules, they play loud blaring music in the van, resulting in rash driving. Looking at parents’ poor response in volunteering to accompany the van route, it was decided that it would be best to empower children with norms of safety and groom them to be the leaders of safety in vans.
Second open house on May 18, 2018: Once again Principal, Station House Officer (SHO), Delhi Police, Local Police Station Officer and Traffic Inspector addressed van drivers. Ms. Pushpal Kaur, Traffic Inspector, Delhi Traffic Police addressed van drivers to be vigilant and sensitive while in the driver’s seat as their safety is important for safe mobility of all.
Apprising Students about the risky behavior in van through street play “Dear Uncle”: students, who are passengers of vans were apprised of the safety norms while travelling by van. https://youtu.be/jPf4BHUEXr8
Distribution of cards to van drivers: To develop a bond with the drivers, students distributed cards making an appeal to them to obey traffic rules for their own safety as well as the safety of passengers.
A questionnaire prepared by Hero Honda and Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers was given to students about safety in roads. A few questions addressed on safety in van were included. This written quiz was conducted on October, 12, 2017. All pupils zestfully participated in the quiz. Team A collected the quiz attempted by students and analyzed the responses.
Essay Writing - Today students are much more aware and able to actively engage themselves in activities in bringing about a change in the society. Students participated in Inter-School poster making competition and Essay writing competitions. Namita Bhatt of class 8 won First Prize in Inter-School Essay writing Competition organized by Delhi Traffic Police. The topic of the Essay was “Education is a more effective medium to reduce road accidents than enforcement”. Her essay was declared best with first position at state level. She was awarded a cash prize of Rs. 10000/- in recognition of her vision of students role in safe mobility.
Signature Campaign – Through a circular parents were apprised of the safety rules and norms for verification of antecedents of the drivers. Students were informed about the safety issues and norms to be followed for safe mobility. Both stakeholders submitted the proformas after completing the details required. This ensured that they have carefully read the same.
A Video Message by the School Principal: A video message about safety in van was shared with the students by the school principal. The message was uploaded on school’s website. It was also uploaded on Smart Boards in the class rooms to develop responsible behaviour. https://youtu.be/nMP32U8trKI
Van drivers submitted details of their valid ID Proof, Driving License Number and Vehicle Number to the parents of the children commuting in their van. So far all 50 van drivers have submitted their proforma after verification of antecedents to parents and school for record. Parents have acknowledged the receipt of the same by signing the proforma submitted to them. It has been forwarded to school for record.
Van drivers now come inside the school to pick up the students. All the Van drivers carry their I Cards as it has been made mandatory for them. Number of students in each van has now reduced. Students and parents feel more comfortable as this awareness drive has linked the student, the parent, the van driver and the van operator. It has promoted a sense of responsibility and mutual trust among the stake holders.
• To convince a parent to occasionally accompany the van route.
• To convince van drivers to equip their van with fire extinguisher and first aid box.
• To convince parents to reasonably hike the transport fee in order to reduce the number of trips covered by each van driver. This will reduce waiting time on the road.