Fatal accidents involving school buses are happening with unsettling frequency, and this should be cause for grave concern.
In the latest incident, 11 pupils and two adults died when a school bus crashed into a gulley in Mtwara on Tuesday. Seventeen schoolchildren were injured in the accident, some seriously.
The crash brought back painful memories of the May 6, 2017 accident involving a school bus in Karatu District, Arusha Region, which left 33 schoolchildren and three adults dead. It was one of the most serious accidents involving school buses on record in Africa.
Following the Karatu accident, the government directed that all school buses be inspected, and those found to be defective taken off the road and their operators taken to task.
However, several incidents involving school buses in the last few years show that the directive was nothing more than a kneejerk reaction that sought to cool down widespread public anger in the wake of the crash.
It will be recalled that in 2021 police in Mbeya flagged down a 14-seater minibus that was crammed with at least 40 schoolchildren. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
Accidents involving school buses can be attributed to two main factors – poorly maintained vehicles and the hiring of drivers who are not qualified to drive school buses in the first place.
The number of school buses found to be defective in Dar es Salaam alone during the crackdown conducted after the 2017 accident serves to show how some schools disregard the whole issue of maintenance despite parents and guardians paying through the nose for school transport. According to preliminary investigations, the Mtwara crash was caused by brake failure, which is usually a result of lack of proper maintenance.
It should also be remembered that not all drivers are qualified to drive school buses. Drivers have to undergo special training before they are allowed to drive school buses, but this fact is largely ignored as unscrupulous school officials seek to cut corners to minimise operating costs.
Comprehensive action needs to be taken as a matter of urgency to rectify the situation.
EMPOWER WASTE RECYCLERS
Only 25 percent of waste produced in Tanzania is recycled or otherwise properly disposed of. Sadly, in this era of rapidly advancing technologies, electronic waste (e-waste) is rising in tandem with other types of waste.
It is estimated that Tanzania produces at least 25,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, but only between two and five percent of that is recycled. This is a threat both health-wise and environmentally, and we hope that guidelines on waste production and disposal will save the day.
The guidelines outline the duties of individuals and institutions in reducing waste production and recycling, and the penalties for contravention thereof. People involved in waste recycling should be empowered if we really want to reduce the risks associated with e-waste. Kudos to small-scale entrepreneurs who are making money from waste through recycling.
However, they need financial and other support for them to continue with their good work, which is generally viewed as dirty and dangerous.