A new school term begins today. The top two issues are going to be books, rather the lack of them sometimes, and the traffic.
The Ministry of Education has always done its part when it comes to books and the issue gets sorted out. But traffic is an issue that refuses to die down every year and keeps getting worse.
The New Year titah of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam touching on the traffic congestion has come very timely.
I absolutely admire His Majesty, his vision and concern for the country and his subjects. The reminder about traffic congestion and urging the authorities to tackle it comprehensively and studies to be conducted for a long-term solution are bang on just as the new school term begins.
I have hardly seen, correct me if I am wrong, concerned authorities call all principals of schools to solely, discuss the traffic issues. Now that His Majesty has broached the topic, there could be a few meetings soon to tackle the situation.
There are some big schools in the capital or areas where many schools are located that need to be looked into first.
On the positive side, motorists, though frustrated, understand the extra time they may have to spend in their cars before they reach their destinations during peak hours. We do hear the odd honking of cars but one has to give it to our motorists for the patience they exercise and we hardly see people getting down from their cars to settle issues unless there is an accident.
In some developing countries I have seen motorists losing their cool so quickly that the first thing they do is to open the boot, take a stick, rod or baseball bat and approach the other driver. Blows are delivered before either one of them could say a word.
But as the number of cars on Brunei's roads increases every year, tempers are likely to flare and we may soon see motorists settling scores among themselves.
If the authorities could target a few schools or areas and manage the traffic, it would be a good start. For that to happen, the motorists (read parents) need to cooperate. Very few realise that motorists in front of them are in a hurry too to drop or pick up children from the school and leave the place. Cutting lanes or indiscriminate parking leads to chaos and the eventual queue of cars stretching a few hundred metres.
Maybe the best area to work on is Bandar. In one or two square kilometre area, Bandar has about a dozen schools. Will the altering of school timings by half an hour for some schools in the area lessen the traffic?
We see traffic police manning the traffic lights in this area as the sheer number of cars simply overwhelms the system. The police could also try making some of the roads one-way.
I applaud the traffic police for their effort, but what we need is a long-term solution like what His Majesty has asked for.
We have come with many master plans for various infrastructures, I am sure we can come up with one more to solve this problem. It can save so much of time and energy for the parents and the country and could even translate to better productivity.
We simply have to start somewhere so that we can hit upon a system that may work.
Considering some of the legendary traffic jams that we have heard or even experienced in some of the Asean countries, what we experience in Brunei could be termed a small blip on the screen.
But decisions taken now and solutions found will help us not to get into situations that other countries in the region have to live with.