As a schoolgirl, I took the school bus. Everyone in my school did. It didn’t matter whether they were very rich or they had their own car and driver; my school insisted on everyone taking the school bus or school service.
This system prevented traffic from building up on the small road leading up to our all-girls campus nestled in the hills. It was a good system and it worked.
Naturally, when it was my turn to have school kids decades later, I looked up the bus services available in our area. With my kindergartener son, we boarded the yellow-and-black van and prepared for what I thought would be an uneventful ride to school. After school was let out, we took the bus again for home. By the time our day ended, we were exhausted and I decided that my son will not be taking the school bus again.
Here are my sad reasons why:
- The yaya talk
In my time, we kids rode the bus with no other grown-up save for the bus driver and the bus “mother.” I started riding the bus at 5 years old and continued doing so until I was in my teens. No one brought parents, grandparents or yayas with them.
These days, almost every child had a yaya. I understand that parents now are so fearful of their kids being alone that they send a yaya with their child everywhere, so their presence wasn’t what concerned me. It was their language.
My son and I were in the bus for more than an hour and the yayas loudly and gleefully talked about their sex lives in detail. They bad-mouthed their employers—the parents of the children sitting beside them! I don’t know which was worse for my preschooler to hear! I had to tell the yayas to consider the children in the bus, so the lewd talk was cut short but I couldn’t imagine my child—who would be riding the bus alone—exposed to this everyday!
- The long wait
Because the school bus service has kids from different grade levels, which have different schedules, the bus arrives and leaves in batches. That would mean one child will have to be at school an hour and a half earlier before his classes start while another child must wait two hours before he boards the bus to go home. That’s a lot of time spent alone by my two very young children.
Since my kids have no yayas, this isn’t an option for me yet. Perhaps when my boys are older and can participate in after-school activities, I’d be okay with all the hours waiting.
- The terrible traffic
Manila’s traffic situation has gotten worse over the years. It used to be there were two rush hour periods: 8-9am and 4-6pm. Now, every hour is rush hour!
When we tried the school bus, we were on the road for more than two hours because we had to drop off every kid to their house. Now that I pick up my kids myself, it’s just a 30-minute trip home—even with the rush-hour traffic.
The irony of my last reason doesn’t escape me. School buses relieve traffic. If every kid took the bus, then there would be less cars on the road. Less traffic means more time our kids spend at home instead of on the road. But because of reasons 1 and 2, I can’t let my kids take the bus.
I have no solutions. Maybe schools can do what my old school did—insist that all students take the bus service. Maybe parents can do what previous parents did—send their kids on the bus without any yayas. If they can’t let their kids be on their own yet, maybe parents and bus services should tell the yayas to watch their language and topics while on the bus.
Maybe city governments can implement bus stops so that the school bus won’t need to go to each and every house to drop off the passengers, and the yayas can wait at the bus stops instead.
Until then, or at least until my kids are old enough to discern good language from bad language or take public transport, I’ve decided to bring to and fetch my kids from school myself. Thank goodness there’s Grab and Uber since that means I won’t need to add another car into the fray! Maybe we should all just use a ride-sharing service!