Matatu operators in Kitui hiked fares Monday as boarding students thronged bus stops back to school after the mid-term break.
Speaking to KNA at the Kitui Bus Park, distressed parents called on the Matatu Owners Association to reign on the unscrupulous Saccos plying the Kitui-Nairobi termini for overcharging the students going back to school.
“We are calling upon the government through the Transport Ministry to crack the whip and save us from exploitation. Some parents are financially exhausted and agonizing how to fend for their families,” said Kasyoka Muli.
Muli complained about being overcharged for fare every time they are taking their kids back to school from vacations, claiming that this problem has lasted for long, and hence there is need for a solution to be found once and for all.
“Public transport operators have been taking advantage of their large numbers to charge them double of the normal amount on fare every time they are resuming for their studies, either within or outside the county,” she said, adding that fares between Nairobi-Kitui jumped from Sh 400 to Sh 600 Monday.
Muli averred that doubling fares has had a negative impact on students from vulnerable backgrounds because it results in the students going to school with limited personal items and pocket money.
“Others even get late before reporting back, because they are forced to wait until the fares go down,” she added.
Another parent, James Maithya, expressed dissatisfaction with the conduct of public transporters and urged them to be humane when handling students going back to school.
“The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic had disastrous effects on the education sector. There were several cases of teen pregnancies reported across the board. Now that learning has resumed, we urge the Matatu sector to play its role in nation building by charging normal fares,” said Maithya.
He said that the government should collaborate with the public transport sector to subsidize the fare to ensure that the operators do not increase fare anytime the students are travelling.
“Without proper guidelines, since its peak time and some unscrupulous operators want to maximize profits, they in turn overload their matatus, which puts the students’ lives at risk,” warned Maithya.
But in a quick rejoinder, Mwendo Kyalo, a Matatu driver, absolved the operators from blame saying that the business had suffered massive losses and several operators were reeling under huge debts.
“This is crunch time for the sector, due to the teeming number of students going back to school, we have to increase the fare to manage the chaos at the bus terminus,” added Kyalo.
By Nicholas Mutisya