Abu Dhabi: The newly announced refurbishing of school bus transportation vehicles by September could ease parents’ and students’ long-standing concerns over school buses, residents in the capital said.
Common complaints by students involve overcrowding, out-of-control behaviour and lack of space, with many pupils in the emirate reportedly preferring alternative methods of transport to and from school over using their school bus. This is why a new set of extensive regulations announced by the Department Of Transport (DoT) last month is expected to transform school transportation for students, DoT officials said.
“The school bus leaves at around 3.20pm even though the last school bell usually rings at 3pm. In addition, it gets very crowded at times and the younger students display behaviour which makes the ride home uncomfortable,” said Haneen N., a 19-year-old Yemeni student at a local private school in the capital.
Among the new standards, all school buses will be required to provide chaperones for children less than 12 years of age in a bid to ensure that all bus rules are followed on board. In addition, the number of students allowed per bus will be limited to prevent overcrowding, while emergency exits will have to be clearly marked.
All schools in the emirate will be required to refurbish at least 50 per cent of their existing vehicles according to the DoT’s new set of rules.
Dr Rishi Padegaonkar, principal at the newly-opened Bright Riders School in Mohammad Bin Zayed City, said school authorities were still awaiting the final version of school bus guidelines.
When asked whether the cost of the bus refurbishments would be passed on to parents, the principal said there would be no changes to school or transport fees.
“Our free structure has been approved, and there will be no additional charges. The changes to buses are positive and we will implement them in all our buses as soon as possible,” he added.
About 80 per cent of pupils currently enrolled at the Indian curriculum private school use buses. The transport costs range from an average of Dh150 per month for those living in Musaffah to about Dh350 per month for children who live in Abu Dhabi’s business district.
Kamrun Nahar, a Bangladeshi homemaker in Abu Dhabi, said her two school-going daughters frequently complain about travelling in school buses.
“One of the most worrying issues is that the air conditioners don’t work, or are often not switched on. The problem is worse in summer, and my daughters have developed heat rashes from excessive sweating,” she told Gulf News.
Nahar was also concerned because the buses do not have female chaperones.
“We all know of the numerous cases of child molestation. Yet school authorities continue employing male chaperones. It is also a worry that schoolchildren of both genders use the same buses without any proper adult supervision,” she added.
“It is a small bus and we often have to squeeze in together. I prefer it when my father is able to pick me up from school,” Nabiha A, a nine-year-old pupil at a private school, said.