By Precious Moyo
Her last Mathematics lesson is the worst and she barely comprehends it because her mind wanders as she constantly checks the time.
As the teacher goes on to explain the quadratic equations on the board, her mind once again wanders off, this time to thoughts of Hyper Bus Terminus where she has to queue for hours for the ZUPCO bus service.
After the lesson as other students drag their feet to board the commuter omnibus for $1.50 or their parents' cars, Andile Jubani clutches her school bag and rushes to the bus terminus because all she has for transport is a 50 cent coin.
Jubani is one of many girls whose social and academic life has been disrupted ever since the transport crisis that hit Zimbabwe when commuter omnibuses started charging at-least $1.50 per trip while Government (Zupco) buses charge just 50 cents per trip.
“My grandmother is unemployed and cannot afford giving me $3 for transport every day. A ZUPCO bus serves me better because it costs 50c only,” Jubani said.
Jubani who now stays with her grandmother and cousins in Bulawayo’s Cowdray Park suburb because her parents recently passed on said she usually gets home at 8PM. Despite getting home late, Jubani still has to complete house chores and study amidst water rationing and load shedding challenges.
“There is a lot of pressure at the terminus and sometimes we get home at 8pm. My grandmother is very old and l can’t expect her to fetch water or make fire. When l get home l make sure l cook for the family, do the dishes and clean the house before l sleep,” she said.
“This strains me because l usually have a lot of homework to do and as an O’level student l have to study for my final examinations,” she said.
Most parents and guardians who are already struggling to make ends meet amid price hikes have resorted to budgeting a $1 to board a bus instead of the $3 demanded by commuter omnibuses
Besides being burdened by home chores and disadvantaging their school work, female students' safety is put at risk as they often get home after dark.
“Sometimes when we get off the bus, it will be very dark with no one walking down the road. Unless you get someone to walk with you will be alone. There have been many cases of rape and we just fear for our lives,” said another student, Sijabuliso Nkala.
Another girl said her performance had reduced as she always felt sleepy in class.
“I am always tired because l get home late, sleep late and wake up early to make ends meet. This is straining but our parents can’t help it because they are already broke,” said Karen Choto.
One parent Mrs Zodwa Nyoni suggested that Government set aside buses for students so that they don’t join long queues with adults.
“The safety of school children should be a priority for every caring parent. I think its better that Zupco sets aside a bus for children so that they don’t join long queues. They can say maybe at 5PM they come and pick children to ease the pressure,” she said.
A concerned father, Mr Zenzo Sibanda said the situation puts the life of female students at risk but went on to mention that parents could not help the economic challenges.
“We care about our children but we can’t help the challenges we are facing. Sometimes you calculate that by opting for a bus it serves money and at-least the child has some pocket money to spare,” he said.