The beginning of Third Term last year was a nightmare for many students. As reported in our August 13, 2014 edition, students complained about the difficulties they experienced in search for vehicles to school.
“Yesterday (Sunday, August 10, 2014) I arrived at Nyabugogo Bus Park early in the morning, bought a ticket and was booked for the 5pm bus. But three hours later (after 5pm), there was still no bus for me and the other passengers. We were then told to go back home by the bus operators because it was late,” Yvette Girimbabazi, then a student at College Mount Sion Apadem in Nyanza District, Southern Province, told The Education Times last August. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.
In order to assess whether the Government and transport companies had learnt from last year’s experience, The Education Times camped in various parts of the country and now reports:
Less waiting time, less congestion
Unlike last term when students waited for hours (and in some cases days), this time the situation wasn’t as bad. The average waiting time in taxi parks was between 20 minutes and one hour, according to most students interviewed.
John Nigaba, a Senior Six student at Igihozo Shalom in Nyanza, said he bought a ticket for his Sunday journey a day in advance and everything went as planned.
“I waited in Nyabugogo Taxi Park for 10 minutes before boarding a Volcano bus and I reached my destination in time,” Nigaba said.
Emmy Mugiraneza, a student at Lycee de Ruhango Ikirezi, was also impressed by the services.
“Last year, you had to book a bus a day in advance but things are very different today. For instance I’ve just bought a ticket and my journey starts in 30 minutes. This means I will reach school before 3pm,” Mugiraneza told Education Times in Huye district on Sunday.
The other challenge students faced last year was keeping their luggage safe and intact. Nigaba also says it was a tug-of-war transporting their luggage to school previously.
“I had a suitcase, a mattress and a bucket but they were all put in the back seat of the bus to ensure my comfort,” he said.
While investigating the cause of the crisis last term, Yvonne Kabareebe, a sales principal at Horizon Express Bus Company, explained to Education Times that the number of days for reporting back to school had been reduced from three days in the past, to two days, leaving the transporters overwhelmed.
This time, the number of days was revised upwards, and a timetable of reporting back to school made public. According to the programme released by the Ministry of Education, students were supposed to go back to school from Friday, January 23 through Sunday 25.
For instance, students travelling to each district had a specific reporting day.
The ministry also urged all students to buy their tickets at least a day in advance, wear uniform (apart from Senior One and Senior Four entrants) for easy identification, travel before 3pm, and be in their respective schools by January 26.
Why the plan worked
Emmanuel Asaba Katabarwa, the director of road transport RURA, says besides most buses being dedicated to transporting students last weekend, two new companies boosted the back-to-school programme.
“The new Volcano and Student Safety buses are strictly for students. Although most of them offer town service, they were mobilised to take students upcountry,” Asaba said.
He added that the new buses also picked up students (only those who had subscribed to the companies) from their homes hence reducing on the number of passengers in parks.
Role of parents
Despite the Government’s good plan and transporters commitment to the cause, not much would have been achieved without parents’ cooperation. Fortunately, they seem to have played their role responsibly.
Nadine Mukankubito, a parent residing in Kimironko in Gasabo district, says she ensured her child leaves for school with the first bus on Saturday.
“I personally booked the ticket on Friday and by Saturday morning we were ready to go,” she explains. “We had done shopping earlier during the holiday so my daughter had no excuse not to go to school on the first day.”
Another parent from Kanombe, Immaculate Mbabazi, also says the trick was in early shopping.
“Since I expected my son to start school on January 23, I bought all the requirements such as books and pens in time. When the day to travel came, everything was in order,” Mbabazi explains.
Kigali district education officer Jean Pierre Habimana says he did not receive any complaints from students travelling to schools within the city regarding the transport system.
“There were no stranded students. We actually received calls from several schools informing us about the arrival of students,” Habimana says, adding that the efficient transport system and improved coordination reduced students’ waiting time for vehicles.
Not all is perfect
Although our assessment largely shows that the back-to-school timetable was respected, there were a few cases of latecomers.
“As usual, some students and parents wait for the last day of the holiday to start preparing for school,” says Frank Shyaka, the headmaster of Essa Nyarugunga Kanombe.
The Government and other stakeholders must also devise ways of serving both students and non-student passengers equally.
Vincent Kabeera, a stranded passenger, told Education Times: “I have failed to get a bus because priority has been given to students. Does it mean that when students are reporting for the new term or breaking for the holiday everything else must come to standstill?
Your advice to fresh students
It’s always hard to adapt to a new environment or school. But with determination and clear goals, one can easily settle in very fast regardless of the conditions. I encourage parents to brief the children on what what to expect in a new school and how to go about every challenge.
When I joined a new school, I adjusted to the environment quickly. I made many new friends in a short time and endeavoured to understand the culture of my school which helped me settle. That is the same advice I give every student who is joining a new school.
The only way to be comfortable in a new school is by respecting school rules and regulations. Whenever I joined a new school, I always made it a point to know what is acceptable and unacceptable.
The question about whether you are in a new school or not is not important. What matters is the quality of education you are getting. You must also be flexible if you are going to manage life in a new environment.
Jane Francis Uwera
The secret to getting used to your new school is in befriending old students in a short time. It is these students that will help you adjust to the new and sometimes strange lifestyle at school. Desist from keeping to yourself lest you meet serious challenges.
Orientation is very important when you are new in a school. As soon as the term started, I immediately reported to school with the aim of learning about the school and its culture. This helped me so much.