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School shows the way

A neat fleet of yellow school buses has helped ease traffic jams caused by cars waiting to pick up students from Avabai Petit Girls’ High School at Pali Hill, Bandra. Bhavya Dore reports.
By Bhavya Dore | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUN 30, 2010 12:43 AM IST

A neat fleet of yellow school buses has helped ease traffic jams caused by cars waiting to pick up students from Avabai Petit Girls’ High School at Pali Hill, Bandra.

The school’s new term, that began on June 7, saw its students filing into the 24 buses. Thus, even before the government’s school bus policy was tabled in the Cabinet, Avabai Petit school became one of the first suburban schools and the fifth in the city to adopt the policy.

“This was an initiative that our trustees suggested as it’s a tried and tested system,” said Sandhya Balakrishnan, principal of Avabai Petit School. “We wanted to ensure the safety of our children and also avoid inconveniencing residents in the area with traffic caused by cars and autorickshaws.”

The school’s 900 students “are expected” to use the bus system with only those walking to school, taking a BEST bus or train being exempted. After working on the policy for six months, the school administration is happy to see the system gradually falling into place. “I hope it will be a good example for other suburban schools as well,” said Balakrishnan.

The government’s school bus policy, which was approved on June 24, prohibits students from travelling to school in tempos or autorickshaws.

Now, schools have to sign contracts with private bus contractors rather than parents independently dealing with the contractors. Both the school and the contractor are obliged to adhere to various safety clauses.

The government’s school bus policy is based on the model conceptualised and implemented by activist Indrani Malkani for Cathedral and John Connon School, Fort. After Cathedral successfully adopted it in 2002, Bombay International School, Bombay Scottish and JB Petit School followed suit. Malkani was part of the committee that drafted the final school bus policy.

“The policy standardises safety and services across schools, so there is no question of children of some schools travelling more safely than others,” said Malkani.

The policy provides that no school bus should be older than 15 years, it should be fitted with an emergency exit and should have details of students’ emergency contact numbers and blood groups, among other things.

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