Children risk lives on boda bodas

By Eriah Lule

Have we all seen toddlers sitting in front of ‘Boda boda’ motorcycles, especially when being transported to school early in the morning or even being carried back home, but have we considered the consequences for our children?

Despite Boda boda’s growth in the country over the last two decades, it has made transportation more affordable, accessible, and efficient. As a result, many parents who cannot afford to pay for pricey school shuttle services have turned to boda riders.

Doctor Ssenkubuge Michael, a Ministry of Health children’s expert, says it’s not a good idea to put toddlers in front of ” boda bodas.” There are a lot of examples of “Congestive Airway Disease,” which is a lung disease caused by blocked airflow from the lungs. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the medical term for it (COPD).

This condition later develops into allergies with symptoms like breathing difficulty, cough, mucus (sputum) production, wheezing, and fever, though it is curable. “Parents should take extra attention to boda bodas because they might end up causing life-time scars rather than ferrying the child,” he said. “Protective measures for the children should be put in place for their health.”

Deborah Mugawe, the school administrator of Uganda Christian University Kids Care Center, notes that children who come to school on boda boda are not quite lively and productive in the morning hours. It affects their academic performance since they have to first deal with the morning cold.

Mugawe restored having physical education for her pupils before they start classes, and even in class they start with in-house interactive lessons like singing or clapping hands to fight the cold.

“We have further advised parents to take extreme measures with boda bodas by providing a helmet, shawls, and even gloves for their health. We have further advised them to let toddlers put on trousers when they reach school. We pack it,” She added.

Joan Nalubwa, a mother of three, says that as parents they are always affected by the economic situation in the country, which fluctuates everything, this leaves them with no option but to use boda bodas for transportation of toddlers.

“We know boda bodas are cheap and have an effect, but what shall we do? We have no option because it’s the easiest way to afford it,” Nalubwa said.

Boda boda charges depend on distance and start as low as 1,000 shillings. Some are even paid monthly or even termly to ferry children to and from school, compared to school shuttles, which are very expensive.

In 2014, CCTV reported about child injuries caused by boda boda accidents in Kampala. It showed that all of these were caused by over-loading or bad driving either from or to school with toddlers. A ward at Mulago National Referral Hospital was created for this cause but receives more than 15 patients a day (children).

Awerence Niwabiine, the then Traffic Police Commander, noted that it was really difficult to get hold of individual boda boda riders due to bad driving since the boda industry employs over 2 million riders all over the country.

Alilion Jacob, a boda boda rider at Tech Park Stage in Mukono, says that sometimes boda riders are just relaxed on taking extra attention to the toddlers they are taking. All they care about is whether they have reached and ferried another lot if it is available.

“Most riders are money-oriented and forget to care for the lives of toddlers, a big challenge that our profession is facing,” he said.