When it comes to transportation in Kigali City, there is no clear cut provision for children. The young and old will all fight for the same commuter services during the rush hours.
Those who wish for something different may fork out some more money for a hired taxi (cab) or a motor cycle taxi popularly referred to as Taxi Moto for the increased comfort or urgency. In this situation school children tend to be left with the short end of the stick.
Many day schooling children resort to waking up very early and walking to school since their parents cannot afford to pay for their daily transportation needs. Organised transportation is also a rarity in this case and this leaves students with no option but to push and shove with other passengers in the morning and evening rush hours.
The pushing and shoving often leaves students frustrated after failing to compete for the few spaces. This means that a good number may end up getting to school very late and therefore be punished for this as well. For the ones that opt to use a regular Taxi Moto driver safety sometimes becomes an issue.
A child identified as Arnold who studies at St. Famille Primary School, Nyarugenge district in Primary Five has got a motorcyclist who was hired by his parents from Kacyiru to transport him since he was in Primary One.
Arnold says “I don’t like using the commuter buses because they delay on the road and I get home late.” Apart from Arnold, other pupils say their parents give them money every morning to pay their bus fare. However Amri Hodali a student of Electronics at Kicukiro School of Technology, “It is a bit hard for his parents to find him enough money for the bus fare.”
Therefore, Hodali, who resides in Kimisagara, Nyarugenge district walks for 15 minutes each morning from home to Camp Kigali School, from where he boards a bus to Kicukiro trading centre so that he can get to school on time. In the evening he spends one and half hours walking back home.
He always tries to keep time and ensures that his transport arrangements do not negatively affect his studies. “At least about five students in my class often miss out on classes each day because they arrive late for school,” Hodali adds.
At St. Famille Primary School, it is not only about missing class. Many pupils’ lives are put at risk now that Kigali roads are always having a lot of traffic and accidents are common during the rush hours.
Marie Claire Mukanoheli, a primary five teacher says that recently one pupil died in a road accident. “In my class, one of my pupils was involved in a road accident. The good thing is that he survived death and is now in hospital recuperating.”
Mukanoheli says her school loses at least two children every year to road accidents.
The Traffic Police spokesman, Supt. Jean Marie Vianney Ndushabandi maintains that “Parents are free to use any means of transport allowed in the country, but they should ensure that their children will safely reach school and come back home alive.”
On using a motorcycle for example, he said “If adults can fear boarding a motorcycle, parents should take much more precaution while hiring it for their children; they should desist from putting two children on same motorcycle and make sure the motorist helps the child adjust the helmet”.
In the city of Kigali, the busiest in the country, there are no institutionalised mechanisms to provide specific transport for all primary and secondary school goers, and there is no plan to have any, unless parents propose their own initiative which city officials say they will support. This does not mean that some schools are doing it on their own.
“Some schools contract transport companies to transport students and we encourage all the schools to embrace such practices. Parents who are concerned about the safety of their children can propose such measures to the schools’ administration,” said Hope Tumukunde, Kigali City’s Vice Mayor in charge of social affairs.
“If they bring such projects to us, we shall approve them,” she asserted.
Tumukunde is convinced that, organised transport to drop students at a point where they reach home without getting exposed to the city, the traffic jam and so on can address most of the challenges they face.
This can save students the burden of walking for miles and getting to school when tired or getting home very tired and unable to do any revision.
It will also address the problem of children whom parents give money every morning for bus fare but they use it for other purposes and then walk to school. With organised transport, parents would simply pay a lump sum figure to the service provider or to the school.
The dangers of relying on Taxi Motos are well known and can be greatly reduced if there is organised bus transport. Tumukunde warns that, “These motorcycles are known for the accidents and sometime students are sexually abused by the Taxi Moto riders.”
In schools that provide transport, parents say their children rarely miss out school or have any other problem.
Samuel Rugema has four children who study at Kigali Parents School. Every morning, a bus picks them near their home in Gikondo-Kicukiro district and drops them at the same place after school.
“The driver is always accompanied with a staff member that ensures that every child is in the bus to school and when they see there are any of them missing, they check with us. In the evening, they drop them without anyone missing,” he said.
Despite many students having no buses to their respective schools, officials say there is no excuse for students to misbehave in the name of “rush hour transport mess”.
According to the traffic police department, in the city, buses were allocated specific routes and so if a student keeps time they too can avoid the delays common during the rush hours.
“We still have a problem with the newly built roads where sign posts are yet to be put up but we call on drivers to be careful,” says Supt. Jean Marie Vianney Ndushabandi.
Is it safe for young children to use motorcycles when going to school?
Despite the increasing cases of motorcycle-related accidents, some parents are still using them to pick and drop their children at school, something that many consider risky.
Education Times’ Noël Turikumwe spoke to some motorists on the risks of transporting school children.
Motorcycle transport helps all kinds of people to avoid delays. Transporting small children is not really bad however sometimes parents delay us as the children prepare and then go ahead to insist that we hurry to beat time and this speeding can lead to accidents.
Jean Pierre Rutagengwa
Police has prohibited us from carrying children less than twelve years for safety reasons. They can easily lose control and fall. I can’t transport small kids and if some motorcyclists and parents are still using motorcycles they should be condemned.
Most of the time people use motorcycles during situations where they are running late and it is the same for school kids. The problem is that some parents insist that we hurry which exposes the children to danger. Some children cannot fit properly on the seats and may fall down easily out of fear. I can’t allow any child less than ten years to sit on my bike.
Young children are able to understand our advice while we transport them to school. For instance we tell them to sit properly and wrap their arms around waists. We even tell them where to place their legs. But still carrying a child requires one to be careful. It is like transporting eggs or a sick person. However I encourage parents to buy small helmets for their children.
Normally, transporting a child on a motorcycle is not bad, but not all children fit with this kind of transportation. Very young children cannot sit properly and the helmets are so big for their heads. Such children can easily cause accidents for me so I prefer those over 10 years.