Parents with children in day schools around Kigali say they were tired of poor services that individual transporters offered to their children during their routine home-school travels.
Barely a fortnight after two transport companies launched shuttle services that will drop off and pick up students from home to school, parents using the service say it is relieving to have buses exclusively designed for students.
The initiative, which started with the new academic year on January 26, is being championed by Student Safety Bus, a company specifically set up for this purpose, and Volcano Express which has been existent but only broadened the scope of their services.
“Our children tell us the new school buses are safer. We have so far paid for a month and we are encouraging other parents to follow suit because it is safer to deal with a company that exclusively deals in student transport,” said Sam Butare, the coordinator of Kicukiro parents’ committee at Kigali Parents School.
Butare added that parents expect more professionalism from the operators.
Aimee Mukangango, another parent, said she was formerly worried about the safety of her two children but this has since changed with the emergence of the buses.
Schools currently working with these companies also speak well of their service.
“We have noticed changes in students’ punctuality and we are happy about it. We are trying to bring together parents and these companies to get all students on board for better planning,” said Martin Masabo, the head teacher of Lycee de Kigali.
Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (Rura) welcomed the new initiative, saying it will help end threats to student security as they commute to and fro school.
“We found it important to have companies specifically designated for transporting students and, so far, two companies have been registered after they fulfilled the requirements,” said Patrick Nyirishema, Director-General of Rura.
Speaking about tariffs for school buses, Deo Muvunyi, the acting Head of Transport at Rura, said fares are based on the agreement between parents and the concerned transport company, and Rura can only intervene to make both parties honour the agreement.
“Rura cannot set tariffs on these services but the transporters and parents will agree on the fares because the school buses will operate outside the standard transport framework in Kigali,” he said.
According to the regulations, the student buses, which are all branded, will not be allowed to do anything outside transporting students.
Origin of the idea
Speaking to The New Times last week, the head of Students’ Safety Bus, Theophile Gashongore said as a parent himself, he got the idea after cases of indiscipline continued to increase among children.
There were also criminal cases against children in the city, he said, citing three cases in which children were kidnapped on their way from school.
“I shared the idea of starting a company with two parents who readily approved it and, together, we later registered the company,” said Gashongore.
Gashongore said his company started with 10 buses serving students in nursery, primary and secondary schools, but they are now planning to expand the business to serve students in higher learning institutions.
“We have recruited disciplined drivers above 35 years of age and we shall have an adult female on each bus to help children on the bus. Right now, we are still discussing with parents to get as many of them on board as possible,” he added.
Meanwhile Volcano Express has also expanded their services to include student transport.
“Being in the service in Southern Province for 15 years, Volcano Express has got an opportunity to deliver specific transport services for day scholars,” said Eric Ruhamiriza, the Administrative and Financial Director at Volcano Express.
Ruhamiriza told The New Times that they are ready to deploy any number of buses that will be required as soon as their marketing team concludes agreements with the clients.
“We have buses to start with, we placed orders others in Akagera Motors and more will be bought depending on demand. So our marketing team is dealing with the schools on this service and we ensure commendable services on school buses as has always been our goal,” he said.
While negotiations with other schools continue in order to expand the service, Volcano Express is currently working with Saint Paul School and Kigali International School, while Student Safety Bus works with Kigali Parents School and Lycee de Kigali.