As Ondo school free shuttle stutters… Students, parents lament, Begs Akerodolu to resuscitate the scheme

As Ondo school free shuttle stutters…
Students, parents lament,
Begs Akerodolu to resuscitate the scheme

By Olanrewaju Ayo

In the first tenure of the leadership of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko in Ondo state, the introduction of the one of its kind school free shuttle met the entire populace in surprise because of the peculiarity of the scheme, which as at that time was first of its kind in the country.

The scheme, which was the distribution of big buses to the nooks and crannies of the state to convey the students to and fro school from designated bus stops across towns and cities in the eighteen local governments of the state on a daily basis without paying for the services.
Throughout the eight years tenure of the Ondo born astute politician, the scheme continued. It received so many encomiums both in the state and at the national level. The school free shuttle scheme, didn’t just give relieve to parents and guardians of the huge fee spent on the transportation of their children and ward to and fro school, it also ensured and guaranteed the safety of the school children to their various schools as it curbed the menace of kidnapping of school children and also from road accidents encountered by some of this students.
At the inception of new administration in Ondo state, there were so many rumors that the school free shuttle scheme will be embellished because it is a cliché that Nigerian politicians lacks continuity, especially when they are not from the same political party or caucus.

The hope of the masses wasn’t dashed as the new administration of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN continued the scheme, parents, students and other stakeholders in the educational sector lauded the audacity of the new administration to continue the legacy laid by the immediate past administration in the State.

At some point, the school free shuttle bus stopped conveying the school students for a two weeks running after the resumption for 2019/2020 second term, as various reasons and speculations were given by the state government and the populace.

Some sources said that the government owed the contractor who supplies diesel to fuel the buses, which led to the suspension of its operation. It was also rumored across the state that large number of the buses was abandoned in a state in the eastern part of the country.

In a reaction to that, the special adviser to the governor on transport, Mr. Tobi Ogunleye in a statement made available to news men said that “ the non operation was as a result of ongoing general maintenance of the vehicles.” After Ogunleye assured that the shuttle buses would return to road soon, it came in less time as the shuttle buses was seeing plying the roads and conveying school students to and fro their various destinations prior to the Covid 19 lockdown which disrupted so many activities across the globe.

At a long time running, students and parents are expectant that the school shuttles buses be integrated back for the services of the masses, but the wait is long overdue after the resumption of school and other activities post Covid 19 lockdown.

With the sudden disappearance of the buses again and the current hike in transportation fee in the state, it is worthy to seek reactions and views of the mostly affected stakeholders; the students and their parents even at the wake of this current reality.
Mrs. Ajayi, a middle class single parent vigorously lamented about the situation of things in the state. The mother of two said “presently, I have two children, and they attend different secondary school in Akure. Before now, both of them use the services of the school free shuttle by staying at the nearest bus stop close to our resident, and the buses will take them to school and also bring them back in the afternoon without charging a fee, at that time, it saved me a lot of money and it also saves my children of stress, but now, each of them collects 250 naira each as transport fare on a daily basis. I am a civil servant who gets less than half of my total salary; the government should please bring back the buses to the roads.” She also further noted that days when she doesn’t have enough money, her children will have to trek a long mile to get to school, she appeals to the governor to make the resuscitation of the free school shuttle his first agenda even as he begins his second term tenure.

Also speaking to our correspondent, Omotayo Deji, A student of CAC Grammar school Akure said that though he doesn’t take the shuttle bus, but he now see some of his mates who are used to taking the school free shuttle now ply bikes to and fro school, and now it makes students get late to school.
Furthermore, Adedoyin Pelumi, a senior student of St. Louis Grammar school Akure in her expression pleads with the state government to release the school shuttle and also clear the air on the rumors going around the concerning the ban on the school free shuttles. She said “we now spend almost 300 naira daily as transportation fare, this is a burden on our parent and the only thing that can relieve our parent is when this school shuttle buses resumes work again.

It is worthy to note that parents and students who are at the receiving end of the ban on the free shuttle buses are faced with various economic hardship because they now spend more on transportation fare even with the recent hike in the transportation system of the state. A lot of ranging issues from absence from school, lateness to school, exposure to harassment, accident and other hazards has encumbered the students due to the fading away of this humanitarian service.

In a relative account, it should also be emphasized that some of this buses were burnt down in Okitipupa during the recent EndSars protest that rocked the country late last year, but some major stakeholders has categorically said that it is not the reason for the ban of the shuttle buses.

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