With around ten days to go for the commencement of a new academic year, stakeholders in the field of education may have to field this question of importance concerning the safety of school children – did the heads of schools constitute the Children Transportation Committees to look into matters pertaining to the safe transportation of school children?
Consider this for an answer. Director of Education Shailesh Zingde had on August 26, 2022 issued a circular mandating every school to constitute the Children Transportation Committee as per sub rule (2) of Rule 5 of the Goa Motor Vehicles (Regulation for School Buses), Rules, 2016 to ensure safe transportation of school children. The circular had requested all heads of government/ government aided/ unaided primary/ secondary/ higher secondary & special schools to submit compliance report in the matter to the Education Directorate on or before September 7 for onward submission to the Directorate of Transport.
Take the case of Salcete taluka. With around 80-odd schools located in the taluka, the heads of the schools ought to have approached the Traffic Cell, Margao to suggest a traffic official on the Children Transportation Committee. Pose a question to Margao Traffic Cell, PI Gautam Salunke to shed light on the children transportation committee and he is candid enough in conceding that the heads of hardly 10 schools must have asked the Margao traffic cell to recommend names of traffic officer on the panel, indicating the Education Department’s circular must not have evoked positive response from the schools.
That’s not all. When the issue of Children Transportation Committee came up for discussions at an interaction with the heads of schools located in the Margao Municipal jurisdiction, the representatives of the schools seemed to have had no knowledge of the circular, leave alone constituting the Children Transportation Committees.
The Margao Traffic Cell in-charge, too has no idea how many schools from Salcete have complied to the Education Director’s circular, pointing out the circular had mandated the schools to set up the panels and directly intimate the department on its website. “At today’s meeting, I have impressed upon the representatives of educational institutions to set up the children transportation panels for their own interest and in the interest of the school children,” he said.
He cautioned: “The matter is being monitored by the Judiciary in the light of incidents relating to school children transportation. God forbid, if any incident takes place, the heads of the schools will have to face the music.”
Consumer rights activist Roland Martins echoed similar sentiments. “The entire objective behind the circular is to ensure the school children are transported in a proper manner by the commercial vehicles to ensure their safety. It is in the interest of the children, the schools should set up the panels,” he added.
Rule 5 of the Motor Vehicles Act mandates setting up Children Safety Committee for each district of the State of Goa to discuss, decide and recommend the issues pertaining to safety of children and their transportation under the Chairmanship of District Magistrate. The Chief Executive Officer of Zilla Panchayat, Superintendent of Police of the District, Traffic Controller of Kadamba Transport Corporation, Deputy Director of Education, Deputy Director of Transport, shall be the Committee's other members. The Chairman of Committee shall nominate one person from each taluka as a representative of schools or educational institutions and the Assistant Director of Transport of the district shall be member secretary to the committee. The committee shall meet at least once in six months to review and monitor the issues relating to safety and transportation of school children.
Rule 5 (2) speaks about every school shall constitute a Children Transportation Committee to look into the matters pertaining to safe transportation of school children, transportation fees, identification of bus stops, etc. The Transport Committee shall verify documents of the motor vehicles transporting children, viz. Registration Certificate, Certificate of Fitness, Certificate of Insurance, Contract Carriage Permit, Pollution Control Certificate, Driving License, Fire Extinguisher, First Aid Kit, etc.
The Transport Committee shall be headed by the Principal or Headmaster of the school and shall have one parent-teacher association representative, Traffic or Police Inspector of the respective area, Inspector of Motor Vehicles or Assistant Inspector of Motor Vehicles of that area. Education Inspector, representative of school bus owners, representative of attendants and representative of local authorities of that area, as its other members. The Transport Committee shall meet at least once in three months prior to commencement of each semester.