The house of Akash Vincent, who died after he was hit by a school van on Wednesday, is located in a remote corner of Puthu Nagar, far away from the nearest main road. The school van had to travel on a mud road, negotiating rough stretches and potholes.

According to his relatives, Akash had joined L.K.G. in the same school last year, but had to repeat in the same class this year as he had discontinued after just four months in the last academic year. His parents had then taken him to their native village of Pichuvilai near the temple town of Tiruchendur in Tuticorin district.

There are many in Puthu Nagar and other villages along the city’s fringes, who send their children to faraway private schools with the sole intention of providing them with quality education.

Parents depend on vehicles belonging to the school or hired by the school management to transport students in far-flung areas.

In case neither is available, private companies offering school transport are engaged to pick up and drop off children.

The debate over safety of such vehicles did not begin just last month after the death of Sruthi Sethumathavan in Mudichur near Tambaram. It began as early as in 2002, when a boy died after he was hit by a school van that was backing up, moments after he was dropped off.

This was followed by similar accidents in 2006 and 2010. Soon after, the school education and transport departments, along with the police, sprung into action to undertake a thorough check of school vehicles, forcing many of them to stay away.

A spate of accidents over the fortnight has left residents wondering if these measures have yielded any results at all. S. Gunasekaran, a resident of Arambakkam, said it was an agonising wait everyday as parents watched out for their children’s safe return from school. Boys travelled in overcrowded State government buses at great risk to their lives and limbs, he said.

To reduce accident rate involving school children travelling in buses and vans, the vehicles should be subjected to frequent checks.

Every vehicle should have a trained attendant who must ensure that children reach home safely after they get off vans and buses.

The vehicle must proceed only after making sure that children are out of its path, Mr. Gunasekaran said.


Conditional bail for school correspondent, MVISeptember 1, 2012

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