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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686

Bull World Health Organ vol.80 n.12 Genebra Jan. 2002 

Kenya's bus drivers go back to school

Next door to the United Republic of Tanzania (see adjacent "reflectors" story), reckless drivers of Kenya's "matatu" buses, who help make Kenya's roads 20 times more dangerous than Britain's, are to go back to driving school to improve their skills.

"They are unsafe and reckless" passenger Musyoka Makau told BBC reporter Andrew Harding. "It's a lack of responsibility". According to Harding "a morbid, macho culture" has prompted many matatu owners to paint names like "Chechnya," "Aggression," "Monica Lewinsky," "Upsetter," and "Why Drive When You Can Fly?" on the vehicles.

Now with British funding special one day courses are being held for all of Kenya's estimated 16 000 matatu drivers, Harding reported. "What is the brake for?" instructor Daniel Muchai asks a classroom full of young men. Silence ... Then a cautious volunteer suggests "to slow the vehicle?"

"We're trying to teach them the need to be responsible," Dickson Mbugua, who owns two matatus, and is also chairman of the Matatu Welfare Association, explaining to the BBC. "The course will teach them first aid too — and explain about the effects of driving when taking drink or drugs. We hope it will cut down the number of deaths on the roads."