Going To School: Tackling Children’s Safety With Commercial Transporters
They have become the convenient means of transporting school children living in Lagos and other cosmopolitan cities in Nigeria, whose parents are unable to take them to and from school, due to a variety of reasons. For this category of parents, engaging the services of Okada riders or tricycles operators, popularly called Keke, is the only viable alternative in the situation where they cannot afford the school bus.
The idea of some parents entrusting Okada riders or Keke drivers with the duty of taking their children to and from school has been on for a while. But lately, tales abound of some drivers disappearing with the children to unknown destinations. While some parents were able to find their children with the help of the Police after such disappearances, others were not so lucky.
Despite horrifying incidents, some parents are still in the habit of allowing okada or keke take their children to school unaccompanied. What can parents do to minimise or prevent their children from being harmed by those paid and entrusted with their safety to and from school?
Expressing his views on the issue, Francis Onwaeze, a parent, said a lot depend on parents, who should take all necessary steps to ensure their children’s safety, if they must patronise keke or okada at all.
“As far as I’m concerned, it is a 50-50 thing. It all depends on a parent’s relationship with the Keke or Okada man. Indeed, there have been many ugly incidences of even keke or okada rider neighbours taking away children. So, many people are scared of engaging these people to take their children to school. Personally, I would only give it a try, if I really know the okada rider or Keke driver’s family. I must know his hometown, as well as some of his relatives.
“Generally, I think parents should be more safety conscious than before. I don’t think the issue of safety should be restricted to this area alone. For instance, employing house helps has become a huge problem today, as some of them have been known to abscond with the children when the parents are away. So, I think it is all about doing everything possible to prevent any mishap,” he said.
Toeing the same line as Onwaeze, Chika Okemiri who is a mother saw nothing wrong in engaging the services of these drivers provided a parent has done the needful.
“I don’t have any problem with allowing my child be taken to school by an okada or keke rider,” she said. “What is most important is ensuring that I know the commercial cyclist very well. In addition, someone I know very well must have recommended him. It must definitely be through the proper channel. If we are somehow related, then it makes it easier to trust such a person.
“But in spite of all precautions, I still feel engaging the services of a Keke rider cannot be absolutely trouble-free. One should not expect it to be safe all the time. No matter how good or reliable a keke rider may be, evil people can lure him into doing harmful things to the children. So, whenever I have to engage such people, I just commit my children’s safety into the hands of the Lord because when money is involved, people can do anything.”
But Nate Simeon, a civil servant, said he could never permit his children to be taken to school by an unknown keke or okada rider.
“I have to be very sure of the true personality of the commercial keke rider. It definitely cannot be a random Keke or Okada man. It has to be someone I trust and know personally. In any case, I derive a lot of pleasure from taking my child to and from school, as I feel it is a responsibility I must undertake whether I have a car or not. However, whenever I’m constrained, I seek the help of trusted friends. I wouldn’t even allow my neighbours or relatives to take my child to school. I don’t joke with my child’s safety and if I can’t trust someone, then he/she cannot go anywhere with my child.”
Mrs. Osoro Ukoyen is another parent that wouldn’t trust just anyone with her child’s safety. In her opinion, any responsible parent should not entertain such thoughts.
“I would never let those commercial tricycles take my child to school. It’s either I go with the keke rider or take my child to school personally. People are unpredictable and money can make people change, especially now that the economy is bad. With as little as N200, 000, a keke man can derail and sell a child to ritualists or child traffickers. The level of hardship in the country is alarming and people can do anything to survive.”
Narrating an incident, where a parent lost her three children to ritualists after her trusted Okada rider was paid to sell the children, Mrs. Elugwara Iheoma said nothing could ever make her give her children to commercial motorcyclists.
“Following a call from the school notifying the woman of her children’s absence from school, she rushed over to the keke rider’s place, where he met him packing his things, obviously absconding,” Elugwara, a school teacher said.
“In my school, we are very careful about who comes to pick up a child. And when a parent we have never seen before comes to pick a child, he/she is asked a series of questions, before being allowed to pick the child.
“Personally, I wouldn’t leave my child unaccompanied in the care of commercial transporters; it is very risky. I prefer taking my child to school no matter what.”
A childcare expert, Dr. Emmanuel Balogun said some parents engage the services of commercial transporters for various reasons.
“For instance, if both of them are working and are not opportune to come home early enough to pick their children from school after closing. It could also be as a result of the fact that the school is not located at an easily accessible route and maybe the only mode of transport and quite cheaper is using commercial cyclists. Therefore, it is mainly for convenience that some parents engage the services of those people.
“However, there are many negative aspects to it, which is rather sad. In Nigeria, there are a lot of social vices and people are not honest. There is this ‘get rich quick’ syndrome, which makes people to commit all sorts of atrocities and this is as a result of not being content.
“The important issue here is the safety of the children. On Lagos roads, some of the most delinquent riders are Okada and Danfo drivers. They are so rough and reckless that they pose a big threat to the safety of the children. So, asking an Okada man to take your child (ren) to school every day is like signing a death sentence, as 80 percent of those riders are reckless and impatient. This endangers their passengers’ lives.
“But ideally, such issues should not arise, if there are transport facilities for children to be taken to school. Private schools usually render such services of picking the children to and from their homes, even though this also has its own challenges. When my children were of school age, their school was less than half kilometer away from the house although in the opposite direction. We were living in Coker and sometimes these children would say they knew Charlie Boy Bus Stop, Mushin and all kinds of strange places. This means that the school bus would pick the child that was very close to the school after which it headed in the opposite direction, taking the child through the whole town before eventually going to school. This could sometimes endanger the child.”
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