The first time I came into this city, I knew I did not want to settle here. I knew my life would change and the thought of leaving my once humble home gave me sleepless nights. My only hope though, since I was still studying, was my father who believes that his children can only succeed in life if they attain good education and discipline. He made sure we went to good, Christian boarding schools.
After my university education, I moved to the city to live with my family and life became real. As I was getting comfortable in the city, something caught my attention: public transportation in the city and student who faced the horror.
If you live in Dar es Salaam and have no private transportation, you might think you are one unlucky human being. Over the years the situation has worsened due to increased rural urban migration, disorderly expansion of the urban area and the distance between residential employment and service areas. The morning and evening hours which are the most crucial for one to get transport commonly known as “daladala.”
The most affected group of people is students, who have to wake up very early in the morning to make sure they get to school on time, concentrate in class and also be home early in the evening, and then wonder if they will be lucky with the conductors or not. One of the common scenarios that happen every day is that when these daladalas pull into the station the conductors refuse to let students enter the bus. This is because the fare for students is lower than the normal fare set by Surface and Marine Transport Agency (SUMATRA). The most affected are female students who are taken advantage of as they are considered inferior and are sometimes pushed, abused and even sexually harassed. Even after entering these minibuses, the torture does not stop since the buses are normally packed and there is no law that impedes this.
I ask myself, if I were able to go to nice schools, what about those students who are faced with this challenge of public transport daily? What is the government and society doing to help them? Who will intervene for them so that they may be able to attain their education peacefully and successfully? Does society appreciate the children who need to be protected or are we letting them struggle and shattering their dreams along the way without encouraging and securing their future? To whom will the poor turn to for solutions? What about the innocent children who deserve guidance from society but instead have to fight for it? Is our society merely about the survival of the “fittest?” Are we shaping and forming individuals who will be leaders of the future?
Although I am used to the city and its struggles, my opinion about it has never changed. I see these students every day and wonder what society has to offer for them. One or a few individuals will do their best by offering to pay for a full fare or speak out so that one student is not harassed. But what about others who are still mistreated? Who will come to their rescue? Who will raise their voices to defend and protect them? We are at the point where viable transformation is needed. The universal declaration of human rights, Article One says: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
By J. Vianney Atugonza Binamungu, a WYA member from Africa