Schools have opened today for Third Term and this comes with the big responsibility of dropping and picking children from school.
While some parents opt for boarding school, others insist on living with their children until at least after primary school.
The burden of dropping and picking children at school is much heavier in this era of maleficent kidnaps that have devastated the nation for about a year now.
Although the kidnap cases have involved victims of all ages, children are sitting ducks in comparison to any other age group.
The circumstances dictate that one develops the sixth sense, to ensure that the children’s security is not compromised. The mothers particularly tend to have a more developed telepathic sense, as us one in Mukono whose child narrowly survived being kidnapped last term.
It is a few minutes to 6:30am; the time the child is normally picked from home by a private van. The parents are inside the house preparing to leave for work.
The child is waiting at the balcony for the sound of the car horn, to dash out and join his friends on their way to school.
As expected, the horn sounds and off the child runs towards the gate. Hardly had the child stepped outside the gate than the mother dashes out saying she had felt something was not right.
No sooner had she stepped outside the gate than she starts to scream for help at the top of her voice. Though it was still slightly dark, she could see that the man leading her son away was an impostor. The van was the wrong one too. Upon hearing the screams, the kidnapper lets go of the boy’s arm and jumps into the van which then speeds off. The child is saved from a sure kidnap and possible gory uncertainties by his mother’s sixth sense. The criminal had been studying the pattern. He had identified a loophole and he almost succeeded in taking advantage of it.
Today, these traumatised parents drop and pick their son at school in person just to avoid any risk but also means a whole new set of inconveniences.
Sadly, many other parents do not have the chance to do this in person due to several reasons. But police spokesperson Emilian Kayima advises parents to take the security of their children seriously at all times.
“If you cannot drop them off yourself, be vigilant and work with the school to know every detail of who picks and drops your child,” he says.
The police spokesperson adds that the risk of kidnap is higher at picking the children from school than on dropping them there.
“Most kidnaps involving school children, as per police records, have happened at pick up time because some parents, especially those who drop their children in person, are in the habit of sending whoever is available to pick them up when they fail to do it themselves.
This is one of the biggest loopholes which must be avoided. The more random people you send to pick up your child, the more the school relaxes its rules on whom to hand the children to,” Kayima says.
Similarly, Irene Esther Mutuzo, an official at GreenHill Academy, says most challenges rotate around picking children from school in the evening.
She says, “The most important habit that should be cultivated at all costs is coming to always pick up a child on time. As we know, children often make irrational decisions. If you take long to come and pick him, he might think you are not coming and decide to find his own means.”
Florence Ofwono, the communications manager at Victorious Educational Services in Kampala, says the Victorious schools have invested heavily in setting up a transport section to pick and drop their learners.
She says, “I would highly encourage parents to contact their respective schools about dropping and picking children because the school usually has a tested and trusted system in place. Many city schools today have school vans to do the job and this in my humble opinion is a much safer option. For those parents who prefer private transporters for one reason or the other, make sure you pick one with integrity, who is registered and licensed.”
End the journey
Ishmael Mulindwa, a commissioner in the ministry of Education, says transporters must ensure children are dropped at their homes. “We have received reports that transporters, both school-owned and private, leave children at junctions to save time in the evenings. This is a loophole that must be plugged because you never know what evil lurks between the main road and the child’s home.”
He says schools should create a trusted system of picking children such as giving cards to only the people allowed to pick the child.
The challenges around going to school and coming back home are numerous and the issue of kidnaps is only a small fraction. The bulk of our school going children walk to and from school, others use taxis and boda bodas, especially in the big towns. All these are avenues for a plethora of risks, but the police spokesman Emilian Kayima says parents, more than anyone, can do something to reduce the risks.