Let’s take immediate action so no more children will be forgotten on school buses

May 31, 2024 - 09:36
In addition to raising awareness of responsibility among those involved in transporting children to and from schools in every school in the country, implementing solutions from all levels of government is crucial to effectively prevent the recurring issue of children being forgotten on buses.

By Nguyễn Hằng

Heartbreak and outrage are the overwhelming emotions I felt upon reading the news on Wednesday evening about the tragic death of a five-year-old child in the northern province of Thái Bình, who was forgotten and left on a school bus earlier that day.

My heart sank. The questions of 'How could someone forget a child in a bus?' and 'What can be done to quickly prevent similar incidents in the future?' echoed incessantly in my mind thousands of times.

The incident occurred at the second branch of Hồng Nhung Kindergarten in Thái Bình City.

According to an initial investigation from the local police, around 6:20 am on Wednesday (May 29), the driver, N.V.L, and the teacher, P.Q.A, were tasked with picking up pre-schoolers from their homes and taking them to the school, including the child T.G.H., who lived in Minh Khai Commune, Vũ Thư District.

The bus on which a five-year-old child was forgotten in the northern province of Thái Bình. VNA/VNS Photo

After dropping off the children at the kindergarten, neither the teacher nor the driver noticed that H. was still on the bus. It wasn't until 5pm that same day, when the child's relatives came to pick him up but could not find him, that the school started looking for him. Then they discovered the child still on the school bus.

Despite being rushed to the provincial General Hospital for emergency treatment, the child tragically passed away.

How could he survive after being left on the school bus for more than 10 hours, while Wednesday (May 29) was an exceedingly sweltering and stuffy day in northern Việt Nam, with outdoor temperatures reaching over 40 degrees Celsius?

Following the heartbreaking incident, on Wednesday night, the local police decided to prosecute the case as 'Involuntary Manslaughter' as stipulated in Article 128 of the 2015 Penal Code.

The negligence of those involved, including the driver and the teacher responsible for transporting the students, is the root cause of the wrongful death of the child.

Speaking to a Vietnam News Agency reporter on the sidelines of the National Assembly’s seventh session on Thursday morning, National Assembly deputy Nguyễn Thị Việt Nga, from Hải Dương Province, expressed her sorrow, particularly given that the incident occurred at the end of May when children across the country were gearing up for International Children's Day (June 1) and Việt Nam's Child Action Month (June).

Nga said she believed that those involved in the tragedy were all at fault, showing the irresponsibility and negligence of adults.

“It's a crime,” she added.

That's because their negligence led to the abandonment of a very young child on a school bus for many hours, unnoticed by anyone, resulting in his death, she said.

Things must be done

In addition to raising awareness of responsibility among those involved in transporting children to and from schools in every school in the country, implementing solutions from all levels of government is crucial to effectively prevent the recurring issue of children being forgotten on buses.

This is not the first such case in Việt Nam. In 2019, a child was found dead after being forgotten in a school bus in Hà Nội, which also sparked public outrage.

The issue of children being forgotten on buses is not unique to Việt Nam but is a global concern. Therefore, in some countries, authorities have taken measures to minimise similar accidents and better ensure the children's safety.

For example, in the United States, school buses in the US public school system have installed a button called the 'child check button'. The button is located at the back of the bus, behind the last row of seats.

Whenever the driver turns off the engine, the button is automatically activated and emits a warning sound. At this point, the driver must stand up, leave the driver's seat and walk to the rear of the bus to press the button to turn off the alarm. Otherwise, the bus will continue to sound a loud alarm.

This will make drivers more responsible for checking the bus before leaving, helping to prevent the problem of leaving students on the bus altogether.

In Thailand, parents can use an application to monitor their child's status on the school bus, preventing children from being forgotten.

In 2022, the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) - an organisation under the Thai government responsible for promoting digital economy development - introduced a new system aimed at preventing incidents of children being forgotten on school buses.

Called Smart School Bus, the system features a GPS system to track the vehicle’s location, student tracking devices, and an artificial intelligence (AI) system to process and report information such as vehicle speed, conditions and the status of children on board.

Information provided by vehicles equipped with this system will be sent to parents via a companion app, and will be accessible by schools online. Parents will receive a notification once the vehicle is close to home, when their children get off the vehicle at school and when their children reach home.

The system includes motion sensors, combined with positioning devices, and when it detects a child left on the bus, it sends an alert to the school. The school can then call the bus with the forgotten child, speaking directly to the child until someone arrives.

In the UAE, since 2015, school bus providers have installed warning systems to check for children sleeping on buses. These systems rely on cameras and motion sensors to detect sleeping children.

In South Korea, the 'sleeping child check' system was installed on school buses since late 2018 followed the death of a four-year-old girl, who was left for eight hours in a hot day in a school bus in Dongducheon, north of Seoul.

After turning off the engine or removing the key from the ignition for three minutes, the driver must go to the back of the bus and press a button to confirm that no child remains on the bus. If the driver fails to press the button, the alarm will sound.

Now, it's our turn.

It's time for Việt Nam to launch a similar system to prevent any child from dying or suffering injuries after being forgotten on school buses.

Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly's Committee for Culture and Education, Tạ Văn Hạ, on Thursday said that in the draft Law on Road Traffic Order and Safety that was discussed by the National Assembly at the ongoing seventh session, more regulations on ensuring safety for children and students on the school bus were added.

Enacting specific regulations on ensuring the safety of transporting children is also extremely urgent, so that no more children will ever be forgotten on school buses, and no more parents' hearts will be shattered and broken into pieces after their child was forgotten on a bus. — VNS