One of our readers has written us a letter on an issue we consider of immense importance and relevance to our country and people and which we believe calls for serious, even urgent, consideration.
The reader, whose letter appears in full on Page 6 of this issue, wonder why the government does not devise modalities under which it will not be necessary for very young school children to go to school too early in the morning unaccompanied by adults.
Going by the experience of Dar es Salaam and several other places, both urban and rural, it is common to see children as young as anyone can imagine moving through pitch-dark pathways and dangerously crossing busy roads as early as 5:00 am as they head from home to school the tender age of five years – and this without the slightest indication of an escort being anywhere close to them.
In effect, the children are dangerously exposed to all manner of risks and dangers, including muggings, being run over by drivers in a hurry, and various other forms of assault.
One explanation for the children to wake up that early and venture into the streets is the need to for them to try their luck finding commuter bus drivers, conductors and touts “kind” enough to allow them to squeeze themselves into their daladalas so as to make it to school before it is too late to avoid punishment from their teachers.
But isn’t that one of the major reasons efforts have been made on a number of occasions to put in place fleets of buses specially meant to move school children from home to school and back in an atmosphere of some comfort and, preferably, at a subsidised fare?
Yet, too bad, all initiatives made towards that end so far have flopped owing to factors such as bureaucratic hurdles, problems with the people or agencies entrusted with the implementation of projects devised for the purpose, and lack of support from parents, guardians, the children themselves and the larger public.
But we can bet that, if we were all to stop and make a thorough evaluation of the hell most children in Tanzania go through on their way from home to school and back, we would be near unanimous that there is urgent need for a serious rethink of the way we ought to view the plight of this “nation of tomorrow”.
Even those without a professional obligation to be especially keen, observant or inquisitive know for a fact that there are many individuals and institutions out there more than ready to come to the rescue of these poor and dejected children, at least in terms of willingness to ease their torture and misery as relates to transport.
As noted, some of these individuals and institutions have previously translated their readiness into tangible action, only to be let down by some of the very people supposed to have warmly welcomed such gestures of goodwill and reciprocated by ensuring the children targeted had a better deal.
Our reader rightly suggests that schoolchildren need not go through the tribulations they have had to endure all this long. Action must be taken to improve their lot – and the sooner, the better.