THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: After a gap of more than one-and-a-half years, the government and aided schools in the district have resumed classes offline and things are getting back to normal. However, many school buses haven’t been able to hit the roads yet. They remain in parking sheds as schools believe operating the buses with just one student per seat is not feasible, especially in the wake of rising fuel prices. This has crushed the hopes of school bus drivers who have been out of work since the pandemic outbreak.
When schools shifted to online mode in 2020, Unnikrishnan, who worked as a bus driver at a private school in Nanthancode, lost work and has been struggling to feed his family. “With the sudden shift to online classes, bus services were also stopped by the school management. Since then, we have been out of work. While many were forced to take up other odd jobs to survive, others are waiting for a positive response from the school management,” says Unnikrishnan, who is now temporarily working as a lorry driver to earn a living.
The expense of the buses was managed by the school management, Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the teachers with the funds collected from the students. “The school currently owns four buses. However, the vehicles need repair and batteries need to be recharged. Due to the huge amount required for repairing the buses, the school management is reluctant to resume services. However, we are awaiting a reply from them by next week so that we can start ferrying students again,” says Unnikrishnan.
Manilal R, who has been a driver for nine years at a private school in Neyyattinkara says “This is my only source of livelihood and I have been struggling to make ends meet ever since the pandemic began. Although many schools in the city have resumed bus services, we haven’t got any positive response from our school. Only one student is allowed per seat but it is not being followed by most of the schools.” Though only a few students turned up on the first day of school, attendance is gradually improving. However, the school authorities are reluctant to resume transportation services due to the high cost involved, says Manilal.
The school authorities said they will have to spend a small fortune to get the buses into running condition. Hence, they are unable to resume the bus services. Many parents are relying on private vehicles to bring their children to school due to the pandemic.