19 June 2013

Tanzania: Zanzibar Legislator Commissions Buses for Students' Transport

HASSAN Mussa, a Standard Seven student was seriously injured in his left eye by a commuter bus (Daladala) conductor when trying to stop the student from boarding the bus.

The conductor (or utingo) slapped the student in the face injuring the eye. The incident sparked anger from people and activists, prompting them to call on the police to prosecute and punish the 'utingo.' They also appealed to the police to launch a nationwide crackdown against conductors harassing students.

The police have been hunting for the suspect to answer the charges of injuring the student. Almost every day there are nasty stories about bus conductors harassing students, who rely heavily on the public transportation.

Apart from injuries, the students also suffer psychological torture, late arrivals and departure from daladala stations. All these ordeals of students prompted Mr Hussein Ibrahim Makungu, the Member of Zanzibar House of Representatives from Bububu constituency on Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) ticket, to provide assistance for students by purchasing two buses to transport students in his constituency.

The buses operate every morning, afternoon and evening to transport, free-of-charge, students to and from Bububu constituency. Parents and students are happy with the move, saying it helps their children. Hussein Ibrahim Makungu famous as 'Bhaa' says he purchased the two buses with the capacity of carrying 60 each people in reaction to the "pain I had when I saw students harassed by conductors.

I have witnessed several incidents where students suffer at bus stations." Makungu said that although the capacity is 60, the buses carry up to 200 people because they are students, who share seats and some stand in the bus. "It is an expensive project. I bought the two busses at 60m/- each and I spend a minimum of 200,000/- daily on fuel.

I pay the two drivers and four conductors a monthly salary and four conductors plus other car services," Bhaa said the buses operate from Monday to Friday. Bhaa, the 39 year-old business man, was elected Bububu representative in hotly contested by-election held in September, this year by-election following the death of Salum Amour Mtondoo who died in March the same year.

"I get no support from anybody and unfortunately some people mock me, saying my project will fail. I cannot understand why they wish the project to collapse instead of supporting it to survive to save our children," says Bhaa. The young businessman turned politician argues "We cannot wait for the government to do everything.

Leaders in every constituency have the ability to help resolve problems in the community including transport for students." He says that the service is for all students regardless of their parents' political affiliation and says: "I represent all people, no discrimination although some people think children from parents who did not vote for CCM should not be allowed to use the buses."

Bhaa's initiative, lauded by many, is widely expected to reduce the transportation difficulties encountered by students, particularly students from Bububu constituency and some people want other legislators to learn from Bhaa.

"It is important that other legislators learn from Bhaa so that students in all parts of the islands have a reliable means of transport to and from schools," says a parent Khadija Abubakari who says the project is helpful. The minister responsible for children Ms Zainab Omar Mohammed underscored the importance of transport for students, which she said could be overlooked in efforts to bring about development.

"This is why the government has been calling upon people, particularly local investors to establish a public transport company, which is efficient, reliable and offers affordable service to students," said Zainab. She said that reliable transport will not only bring relief to the students, but will also enable them to reach schools on time and get enough time to work hard in their education to improve performance.

She commended Bhaa for his foresight in making this gracious and worthy investment, which demonstrates his commitment to the socio-economic transformation and supporting students. Many students using the Bhaa transport, which became operational this year, says that an efficient and effective transportation brings about a drastic reduction of lateness at school/ home and improve school attendance.

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