Taking the right bus

SINGAPORE - Business operations manager Jenny Lim, 39, and her account manager husband Alex Liu, 38, are fairly confident that Edison, their elder of two sons, is "alert" enough to take the correct school bus to return home.

But Ms Lim adds that there is a chance "he could be distracted when talking to friends and follows them up the wrong bus" or is late boarding.

Next year, Edison will attend Endeavour Primary School, a stone's throw away from their five-room HDB flat in Sembawang.

His parents have settled on a game plan: Mum will send Edison to school every morning from their home, and her retired father-in-law will drive him back to their terrace house in Upper Thomson, where he and his younger brother, Ethan, will stay until their parents pick them home after work.

And when Ethan, now four, goes to primary school in two years' time, their parents will arrange for both of them to take the school bus home together.

Child development expert Esther Lim, 39, at LeapSchoolHouse enrichment centre, says children at this age are "definitely mature enough" to take the school bus.

She says: "Parents need to give themselves the confidence to know that their child can do it as long as he knows what to expect."

Madam Jackie Kok Chow Hiong, principal of Gongshang Primary School, says that during the first three days of orientation in her school, Primary 1 pupils are dismissed 15 minutes earlier than the rest of the school, at 5.45pm.

Teachers ensure that the newcomers are guided to the correct locations at dismissal - the bus assembly area for those taking school buses and the canteen for those being ferried home by parents.

In addition, pupils taking buses have coloured ribbons tied to their school bags, an identification method used by bus service providers.

Madam Kok says: "The ribbons are visible even from afar."

This way, the bus "uncles and aunties" can spot their charges even if the children have difficulty identifying their bus by their numbers.

The respective bus drivers and their attendants will also check the pupils' names against their name lists as they board the bus.

After the orientation period, Primary 1 pupils will join P2 pupils for flag lowering, and bus uncles and aunties waiting around the area will shepherd them accordingly.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.