Third term: The nightmare of returning to school

“Yesterday (Sunday) 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,” said Yvette Girimbabazi, a student of Collage Mount Sion Apadem in Nyanza District, Southern Province, on Monday. “I arrived here today at 1:00pm with my ticket and I hope I’m really lucky today,” she added.  This is just the tip of the iceberg of what has been transpiring at Nyabugogo since last Saturday. A case here, a bag there, bickering parents, frustrated students, exhausted drivers and a crowded park were what defined Kigali’s biggest taxi and bus park on Monday. 
Students struggle to board a vehicle after several hours of waiting. (Solomon Asaba)
Students struggle to board a vehicle after several hours of waiting. (Solomon Asaba)

“Yesterday (Sunday) 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,” said Yvette Girimbabazi, a student of Collage Mount Sion Apadem in Nyanza District, Southern Province, on Monday.

“I arrived here today at 1:00pm with my ticket and I hope I’m really lucky today,” she added. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what has been transpiring at Nyabugogo since last Saturday. A case here, a bag there, bickering parents, frustrated students, exhausted drivers and a crowded park were what defined Kigali’s biggest taxi and bus park on Monday. 

What caused the mess?

Students and transport companies say whenever a new school term is opening, there is always a bit of human jam and a shortage of vehicles but the latest crisis was unseen before. 

According to Yvonne Kabareebe, a sales principal at Horizon Express Bus Company, the problem was caused by poor planning by the Ministry of Education.

“The number of students going back to school is very big yet the ministry gave them only two days within which to have reported to school. This is practically impossible considering the number of students vis-à-vis the vehicles that travel upcountry. How come when they are breaking off from school, they are given three days?” wondered Kabareebe.

However, Grace Uwase, of African Tours Express, blames students for not respecting schedules.

“Some students booked early and left the park. As a result, they returned when their buses had already left, hence causing confusion. So we had a number of people who had tickets but with no vehicles yet they still had to travel,” Uwase argues.

Kabareebe though sees no reason to blame the students.          

“Students made it here on time but, let’s face it, the buses are very few. We started transporting them on Saturday but the number is still very big. Remember the exercise should have ended yesterday (Sunday),” she adds.

When Education Times sounded out Javier Gasana, the deputy director general, education quality and standards department at Rwanda Education Board, he accused parents of being lax.  

“Parents failed to respect the calendar that was designed by the education board regarding the transportation of students back to school,” says Gasana.

“Just like it was indicated in the announcement, two days were provided for the return of students to their respective schools. Students from the Western Province, northern province, Eastern Province and a few from the southern province such as Gisagara, Ruhango, Nyamagabe and Muhanga districts were supposed to report at school by 5pm on Saturday 9, 2014.

“Also, students from the Kigali (urban) districts of Nyarugenge, Kicukiro and Gasabo were supposed to return on the same day,” Gasana says, adding that students from Nyanza, Kamonyi and Huye were supposed to travel to school on Sunday 10, 2014. 

Safety of the children

Jackson Uwitonze, a parent and teacher, was even more worried about whether his child would reach school safely on his own.

“I use Virunga Express, Fidelity or International buses when going to G.S Ruhanga to teach but also accompany my child. The problem though is that I have failed to get transport means since yesterday (Sunday). Now both my child (the student) and I (the teacher) cannot be at school in time. Even more worrying is the fact that my child’s bus leaves at 6pm, meaning he will get there at night. Because the priority is students, I was not able to get a ticket so that I accompany him,” Uwitonze said.

Fulgence Karasira, a parent, says unlike in their days when it was easy for a parent to escort their children to school, it is a bit different these days.

“Parents would not find it hard to escort their children to school during our time. The congestion was not as much as the one being experienced right now and the fares were affordable,” Karasira says.

But for Livingstone Kavuma, a parent, his biggest worry is the safety of students when they reach their destinations at night. “School administrators should find a way to arrange with bus operators in order to ensure that students are transported to their respective schools on time.”

Bus operators warn

Solange Nyinawumuntu, an employee of Horizon Express, says students in the Southern Province should be given more than two days to report back to school because they are the majority.

She also warns that many unscrupulous people use those opportunities to cheat desperate students and parents. “They buy the tickets at low prices but sell them at double or triple the fare to the impatient or stranded students,” she says.

To avoid such hurdles in the future, Kabareebe advises students to always do their shopping early in order to avoid a last-minute rush. She also calls on parents to guide their children on how to prepare for school in advance.

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STRANDED STUDENTS SHARE EXPERIENCE

Belansila Muhimpundu
I came Nyabugogo park yesterday (Sunday), bought a ticket but failed to get a bus to take me to school. Today I came early in the morning but as you can see, it is 2pm and we are still standing here. We are unlikely to leave today. If I don’t leave today, I will just go back home and come back after four days. 

Emeryne Nkurunziza
I came here (the park) on Saturday and bought a ticket for the next day’s bus. But when I came on Sunday, there was no vehicle for me all day so I went back home. Today (Monday) the queue is even longer than yesterday. It is too hot and I have heavy luggage which makes matters worse. 

Grace Mutoni
I came to Nyabugogo at 3pm but I have still failed to get a bus to take me to school. Fortunately, my school is not very far away and one could easily use a bike but the challenge is that I was only given transport for a bus leaving my hands tied.

Belnese Cyusa
Come rain come sunshine, we shall not leave this place before we get means. Every opening day of the term is challenging but this particular one has been tougher than the previous ones.

Honorine Uwimana
We have been standing here since 1pm. We had booked the 4:30pm bus but we have already been delayed. We even don’t see the vehicle in the vicinity but we have to stick around because we have no choice. I did my shopping during the holidays to avoid such scenes but I think it was a total waste of time.

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