It was the beginning of the year 2017 when the family car broke down. With three kids, we had to experience the life of the majority of Ghanaians who use the ‘trotro’ (public passenger van) as a means of transport; the beginning of our bitter experience; yet, a learning one for which I cannot keep silent.
‘Tro’, a Ga word, meaning “three pence,” was a currency used of old; thus, the initial charge for boarding such public vans was ‘tro’.
Eventually, the vans became known as ‘trotro’, which was the small amount of money anyone could afford, many did and still do board it, alighting at their various destinations.
Due to the frequent stoppages, various views suggest that ‘trotro’ has assumed additional meanings, connoting frequent stops.
Indeed, being a teacher and having the responsibility of attending classes by 7:00 a.m., it was essential setting off early from home with the kids to drop them at school and return to my place of work.
Though the local name ‘trotro’ may connote frequent stops, should this be painful at the expense of the ordinary Ghanaian? Indeed, one man’s meat is another man’s poison.
As if a soothing word would be said to you when you complain… No! You shall receive hurting comments such as ‘ka w’ano to mu! Yɛre yɛ yɛn edwuma’, a Twi expression which means “shut up! We are doing our work.”
Whether old, young, pregnant or sick, they hardly wait for you to sit before setting off.
A terrible experience
One hot afternoon, after picking my kids from school, we boarded the usual ‘trotro’. Before reaching our destination to alight, I prompted the driver’s mate. Unfortunately, he hit the brakes of the ‘trotro’ before reaching the desired spot.
I quickly pleaded with the driver to move forward a little (because of my children). The driver refused and was speeding, so I shouted… “I will get down here.”
Sadly, for me, most of the passengers rather shouted at me and questioned me harshly why I didn’t get down there? I responded that it was because of my kids.
They then gave me a big blow of a response… “nkwadaa no nti deɛn?” Meaning, “The children and so what?” The driver couldn’t care less. You can imagine how I felt; it was a terrible experience.
Furthermore, they overloaded the ‘trotro’ to the extent of taking on passengers even on the conductors’ seat at the discomfort of the passenger who sits ahead; you dare not complain.
It is, however, ironic that even the ‘educated’ sometimes agree to sit by the conductor on his seat. If you refuse, you are perceived to be an extreme fussy person.
Indeed, I could only pray that the government ensures proper means of public transport where the ordinary Ghanaians would be respected and treated with dignity; where drivers would not think only about their income, but dignified service shall be their satisfaction; where there shall be no more black smoke from the exhaust pipes of these vehicles who amazingly possess ‘road worthy certificates’ to be on road; where they will not ‘drop’ passengers half-way through destinations asking them to take another vehicle since they don’t have enough passengers to continue; where many more individuals could opt for public transport though having private good cars.
With all these experiences, I strongly support the view that drivers and bus conductors must be educated, especially for quality work.
May our story bring change for the better for the ordinary Ghanaian to enjoy some dignity on our roads.
The writer is a tutor of English Language at the Wesley College of Education, Kumasi