The nightmare city students put through

Dhaka,  Sun,  25 June 2017
Published : 19 May 2017, 21:06:56
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Traffic jams

The nightmare city students put through

The nightmare city students put through
Prof. Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled
In the 1950s, Dhaka was merely a small city - a provincial capital - with sufficient ease for children to go to school without any parental or similar assistance. We used to start from Paribagh and walk for almost half an hour to Tejgaon Technical High School (modern-day Government Science College) in the city's Farmgate neighbourhood around 10 a.m. Things have changed a lot since Dhaka became noisy, dusty and overcrowded. Recently, Dhaka has been affected by irritable traffic jams with a severe impact on school-going children alongside students of colleges and universities. Gradually, their collective joy of attending educational institutions is being ruined by traffic hazards en-route.                  

Nowadays, students feel the agony of time-consuming traffic jams on every road. As evidence, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) shared a common narrative of their daily experiences: Right after waking up from bed, Class-I student Progga hurriedly prepared for her school. As she finished her school homework, an optimistic Progga charmingly told her father, "My teacher will be delighted to check my homework and give me 100 marks!" Such happiness did not last long - father and daughter waited miserably for a school van that came over 20 minutes late. "We were in dilemma whether to catch an auto-rickshaw or wait further." said Progga's father Paritosh Roy, a resident of Mohammadpur - this is just an instance of Dhaka's regular scenario. Predictably, the van driver blamed traffic jams for his delay.

Being the father of a son in Class-II, Sabbir Mahmud no longer considers school van as a reliable option. Instead, he prefers a rickshaw or a CNG auto-rickshaw. However, Sabbir complained that rickshaws or auto-rickshaws usually remain unavailable in early mornings. Besides, auto-rickshaw drivers often charge unusual fares from passengers. In Dhaka, most schoolchildren struggle to get timely transports while travelling from home to school and vice versa. Respite belongs to those who are privileged to own vehicles. Parents claim that schoolchildren cannot be encouraged to go to schools unless smooth and comfortable transportation is ensured citywide. "If children are to wait an hour for transport right before traffic jams, how they would feel comfortable to go to school?" asked guardian Afroza Rekha, saying "Now, I badly feel the necessity of a private transport, even with loans!"

Nevertheless, numerous experts at urban commuting system are reported to have opined that such tendency of buying and owning transports is hardly a solution to Dhaka's traffic problems. The more private cars hit the streets, worse the city's traffic situation turns! Conversely, the government should emphasise the improvement of public transport system - said Kazi Shifun Newaz, an assistant professor of the Accident Research Institute (ARI) at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). Moreover, bus operators can introduce school-buses or reserve some seats to facilitate the schoolchildren but others argue for arrangements to allow any student to walk to school.

Maruf Hossain, Programme Manager at WBB Trust, argues that most children in Dhaka want to go to their schools on foot. Due to the lack of adequate walking spaces as well as the faulty designs of footpaths, such a plan is already derailed. Developed countries' common practice is that children residing in a specific area must enrol themselves at the nearest school while enrolment with distant schools is off-limits. Maruf believes that introduction of such a rule in Dhaka will let children go to school on their own. Officials of Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) have admitted that the city's school-going children face a transport shortage amid rush hour traffic. "Only two BRTC school buses daily ply the Mirpur-Azimpur route." said Rafiqul Islam Talukder of BRTC. The state-run corporation expects an increase in the number of school buses next year.

Furthermore, an actual solution to such problems is: the guardians will enrol their children at schools in their own wards rather than opting for a 'better' school far away from home regardless of a lengthy process. Under the present circumstances, no other effective alternatives exist. Guardians must understand that "good students make good schools" but usually not the vice versa. However, the government should equip urban schools and educational institutions with proper facilities at all levels countrywide. That will be a big relief for students enrolled by schools, colleges and universities across Bangladesh.

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre. Email: sarwarmdskhaled@gmail.com
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