When you become a parent, there's an invisible agreement thrust into your hands beckoning you to sign it. An agreement that no matter what, we will worry about anything and everything when it comes to our children. Most of all, their safety when they're away from us. So, at 3 years and 2 months, when our little one started school, we were naturally quite apprehensive about everything from the way he would adjust to school to most of all, his safety in bus that was transporting him to school and back.
As with most parents, we ran hundreds of perfectly possible 'What if' scenarios through our minds and found ourselves panicking. In order to put our minds at ease, we decided to speak to the Principal of the school that our son was about to join. After hearing our concerns, she put us in touch with the transport coordinator of the school - an affable gentleman who greeted us with a warm smile, immediately putting us at ease. Over the next hour, not only did he patiently answer all our questions, he even took the trouble of introducing us to the driver as well as the help on the bus that our son would be travelling in.
Suffice to say, we walked away more confident than we'd been when we entered the school. It was refreshing to see that both the school and the bus staff were open to listening to our questions and addressing our concerns. Additionally, the way they'd answered all our queries left us with the impression that they genuinely cared about the safety of our son as well as everyone else on board the bus. And finally, when our little boy hesitantly boarded the big yellow bus on his first day to school, he was greeted by a smiling bus attendant and an elder student, who together coaxed him to let go of our hand and take a seat. It's now coming up to a year since he started to commute on the school bus, and he enjoys every moment of it.
Over the course of the past year, I've had the opportunity to speak to plenty of fellow parents and the general consensus is that there is definitely a need for a comprehensive school bus safety program in our country today. With the road traffic growing every passing day, it is important that there is a program to help streamline the whole school bus travel experience - for the kids, the staff and of course, alleviate any worry that may line the minds of parents. After all, hundreds of kids commute to and from school every day.
Keeping that in mind though, it is perhaps important to realise that school bus safety for kids does not begin or stop with merely transporting the children. In order to deliver a consistent and safe experience, it is important that the drivers and the other bus staff are trained to handle kids in a sensitive manner and encourage healthy communication with the parents. Even the smallest of gestures such as letting the parents know when the bus is delayed can make a world of difference.
Similarly, it is also unfair for us to lay the entire responsibility of school bus safety training on the school alone. After all, it is our kids who travel in the bus. So, the challenge for us is to realise that while the drivers and the staff are capable of looking after our kids, the onus to talk to our kids and even familiarise them with basic school bus etiquette and rules, lies with us - the parents. Therefore, it is also up to us to ensure that our kids know the Do's and Dont's while travelling in one.
Perhaps it was a similar realisation that led Tata Motors to introduce a very novel (and might I add, much needed) initiative in 2013, called the Humare Bus Ki Baat Hai campaign. This drive aims to promote safe travel of school children by involving everyone concerned - from the school authorities and support staff to the school bus fleet operators.
The five core pillars of the programme that gives the campaign a very solid foundation are :
Such has been their drive and dedication to the safe travel pledge that over such a short period, they have successfully conducted over 300 sessions across 41 cities and spent time with over 15000 bus staff in almost 300 schools. And that is truly a laudable achievement.
Here are a few images from some of their sessions so far:
'Hamare Bus Ki Baat Hai' session in Jaipur
'Hamare Bus Ki Baat Hai' session in Agra
'Hamare Bus Ki Baat Hai' session in Chandigarh
'Hamare Bus Ki Baat Hai' session in Delhi
So, as parents, how do we do our bit?
I thought you'd never ask. As the popular adage goes, the groundwork for everything starts at home.
Here are a few simple things that all of us can do to help spread awareness about school bus safety.
Engage with your children and talk to them about the importance of travel etiquette. The HBKBH website has a very handy guide for both parents and children that includes simple tips for a safer school bus travel. You can check them out here
Discuss and brainstorm with fellow parents and devise fun group activities that are both educational and gets the children to think about school bus safety. The Yellow bus story on the HBKBH website is a very interactive piece that can help with role play.
Nominate your child's school for a safety training session and the awesome folks at Tata Motors will get in touch
Take the safe travel pledge on the HBKBH website and invite fellow parents to do it too.
So, what are you waiting for ? Let's pledge to create awareness about school bus safety today. After all, we all want our kids to be safe, don't we?