It is not uncommon to see school children during the school week in the Greater Banjul Area struggling for vehicles to take them to and from school. The highways are lined up with school children during the rush hours in the mornings, afternoons and evenings as they look for free lift from passing motorists or scramble for commercial vans with other adult passengers.
This reporter was motivated to interview some of these school children who travel to various distant schools on a daily basis to explain the transportation challenges they face attending schools in the Greater Banjul Area.
Those students interviewed have noted that they do encounter difficulties in getting transport which often lead to late arrival at school. They also complain that their late arrival at home affects the assignments given to them by the teachers admitting that they have limited time available to do their homework, adding that they go home physically and mentally exhausted.
According to one of the students, he wakes up very early in the morning in order to get transport to take him to school. He said when school is over for the day he continues to face the same challenge of struggling for transport to take him back home. A female student who attends afternoon shift also laments the same difficulties in getting a transport to take her to school in Banjul and back home in the Kombos. She said her parents are very concerned because as a girl she always comes home late from school. She said when school closes for the day it takes her some hours before getting a transport to take her back to Serekunda because of the inadequacy of commercial vehicles that come to Banjul.
Another female student said she pays D50 on fares every day on the taxi vans which, she said, is a real financial burden on her parents in addition to the money to buy food during break time.
The students attribute the problems they are encountering to the lack of school buses.
A school boy attending Muslim Senior Secondary School said he comes from rural Gambia and that his two parents are both living there. He said he was sent to school in the Greater Banjul Area by his parents, but added that due to the hardship associated with transportation he had requested from his parents to return him to the rural area to continue his education there.
Some of the school girls said they are wary of some men who would stop their private vehicles and ask them to get in for a free lift to get them home. They explained that some of these men who give them lifts are not to be trusted.
This reporter visited the Muslim and the Gambia Senior Secondary Schools to talk to the school authorities on the complaints of the school children.
Talking to Alhaji Sheriff Badjan, Vice Principal 2 and Chairman of the Bus Committee of Muslim Senior Secondary School, on the issue of the transport difficulties that students face, he admitted that transportation is not only affecting school children alone but the teachers as well. He said his school is one of the biggest schools in Banjul with an estimated enrolment of over 3000 students with only two school buses which are even out of service at the moment.
He said one of the buses is presently undergoing maintenance and that very soon it will be on the road to ease some of the transport difficulties which the students and teachers are facing presently.
Alhaji Badjan disclosed that the second bus is in a situation that is difficult to repair as it has major damages and that getting a mechanic is also a problem.
As for the teachers, he said, they have to do everything possible to arrive at school on time as they are supposed to sign the Time Book for their arrival.
At the Gambia Senior Secondary School, Mr. Lamin Jaiteh, the Principal, said the issue of transport is not only affecting school children but other commuters as well.
Mr. Jaiteh explained that his school is however not affected as they have school buses that transport students to and from school.