Safety of school children in vans has emerged as a cause of social concern. All stakeholders parents, students, van drivers and school authorities have become vigilant towards the safety of students travelling by vans. It has also raised the level of awareness of the students, ensuring their safety.
In India vans are hired by parents to transport their wards to and from school. This arrangement is preferred because children are picked and dropped at home. Parents who are working find this arrangement convenient and safer for reasons such as:
- crossing road with vehicular traffic is avoided
- Walking home alone from the bus stop is avoided
- Risk of kidnapping/ bullying on the way is also prevented
It was observed that as the demand for private vans increased the transporters providing vans started compromising on children's safety. Risks of accidents increased. Moreover, credibility of driver's background, their lack of proficiency in driving skills and the poor condition of vehicles increase the risks on the road.
To ensure the safety of the students who are exposed to such a risk, the project Safety in Vans was started in the year 2017 -2018. The obstacles were many. We couldn’t cover 100% of the students. We could identify students in Nursery & Primary but it was difficult to identify all students in senior classes because they are using many modes of transport such as public bus, private cars and public tube – Metro train. It was a huge task as it required :
- Identifying children travelling by van.
- Collecting the data of vans i.e., vehicle number, license number and driver’s aadhaar number i.e. unique identity number.
To gather this information road safety volunteers gave a questionnaire form to parents for collecting details of students travelling by van. Last year we could initially identify only 1085 van commuters but by the end the number rose to 2000 approximately. But we were not satisfied with the authentication of the data. With partial success in our endeavour, we decided to continue our project this year as well.
To consolidate the success of our last years’ project our Road Safety Club volunteers decided to invite responses from the students. Interactive sessions were organized to assess students’ knowledge and awareness about the safety measures to be adopted while commuting by van.
When asked during the session, “How many students commute in your van?”
“16-17 approximately and some of us are made to sit on a wooden plank fixed on the CNG cylinder.” was the reply. A candid confession but an alarming one.
A series of similar responses:
“We wait for our van at least for half an hour every day after school.”
“Our van driver compels us to get down across the road, our pleas for dropping at our dedicated stop remain unheard.”
“We are made to sit on the lap of our seniors.”
This issue had to be addressed at any cost.
The first step which was taken last year was identification of the number of van users.
This year we decided to approach the parents on the day of declaration of annual academic result, when all the parents visit the school, facilitating availability of 100% parents.
The information about the van drivers was also collected by meeting the drivers waiting outside the school and giving a form to parents to extend their cooperation by sharing the information about the drivers. It was analysed that there was still a difference in the number of van users so updating the data was required.
The thus crystalised goals were:
- Collection of mandatory information of van drivers.
- Raise the level of awareness about road safety and safety in vans amongst the commuters.
The question was how to overcome the challenges. Some concrete initiatives were taken in this regard.
Safety of school children in vans has emerged as a cause of social concern. It's high time that all the stakeholders — parents, teachers, transport in charge and van drivers come together and address the issues with respect to student's safety.
Our initiatives started with the identification of the key players i.e., parents, students and van drivers who play a pivotal role in crystalising our goals.
To do away with the disparity found in the collection of data of van drivers during the process of framing of ideas a Proforma was again given to the van commuters to collect information from the parents. The road safety volunteers also went from room to room to identify and verify the data to ensure 100% coverage.
A quiz was also conducted to invite responses from the students. It brought forth the fact that the students were partially aware of the safety measures. They also discussed the problems faced by them while commuting.
In the month of July students facilitated the class teacher by providing the detailed information of van drivers. This data was included in the column- mode of transport used by students’ in the class attendance registers as a ready reference in case of any eventuality.
In order to further check the authenticity of the collected data, the transport in charge of the school personally checked the valid documents of the van drivers.
Also, a circular was issued to parents on August 25,2018 to apprise them with the safety norms to be adopted by their wards who commute by van.
One more step in this regard was procuring the UID (Unique Identification) number of the van drivers. To ensure safety, it was made compulsory for parents to submit police verification of their respective van drivers.
This collection of data strengthened the safety of students because the accountability of the drivers for the safety of students was established.
Catching up with the momentum, the school joined hands with the Delhi Traffic Police. In the month of September an open house was held with the students which witnessed complete involvement of young learners of classes VI –XII.
Performing Art has always been an effective medium to teach and learn. In the month of November a fun filled and entertaining skit based on the theme ‘Safety in Vans’ was presented by the road safety club volunteers. The positive response from the spectators showed that the message had effectively reached the students.
The School Almanac: A page in the school almanac with all the details of van drivers is a available reference for any emergency.
A page in the school notebooks: As a constant reminder, an illustrated page with messages on road safety has been included in the school notebooks. These notebooks are being used by 3000 students.
An Animated Game: Students become the developers of knowledge and promoters of awareness by creating interesting animated games. These games are played by the students during their multimedia (computer) club period which is organized once a week. Total periods devoted to this activity comes to 40 i.e., 40 hours of active engagement of the students in the club activities on road safety.
A Video Message by the Road Safety Club Volunteer: The volunteers of the club have left no stone unturned in using social media for community outreach. Pihu Mahendra of class VIII F has made an appeal to students on road safety measures to be adopted by students while commuting by van through a video message uploaded on school website.
- Van drivers submitted details of their valid ID Proof, Driving License Number and Vehicle Number along with their unique Identification number.
- Parents of the children commuting by van also submitted the police verification document of the van drivers. So far, all 57 van drivers have submitted their data after verification of antecedents to parents and school for record. Parents have acknowledged the receipt of the same by signing the form submitted to them. It has been forwarded to school for record.
- Due to the active awareness campaign the number of van users has reduced to 1750 as students are now opting for school bus or means of public transport such as the metro train.
So, this year’s milestone has been achieved with 100 % data collection and the high level of awareness generated in the students is the culmination of this year’s journey.