Students Feel the Heat Due to Transport Company’s Glitch

Filed on September 3, 2008

DUBAI — A British curriculum school, which resumed on Sunday, has closed again for a week after its outsourced transport service failed to pick up children on the first day of school.

Scores of students of St Mary’s Catholic High School, Dubai, were left stranded in the heat on the first day it reopened after summer vacations, as its newly appointed transport service, ‘Safetrans’, did not collect pupils despite charging up to five, and in some cases 10 months, of transport fees in advance.

Parents, who had turned up in large numbers on Monday morning in the school, were refunded the entire transport fee, returned by the transport company.

School authorities have now switched back to the former transport company and have decided to resume classes only on September 7, in a bid to organise themselves.

The school has also registered a complaint with Dubai Police.

Many parents were traumatised when their children didn’t return home on time on Sunday evening and rushed to school to pick them up.

“I had to drop my son in the morning also since I did anticipate teething problems on the first day. However, when he didn’t come back home on time, I was really worried. He then contacted me and I had to pick him up from school,” said a mother.

She added that the school wasn’t really to blame and had in fact stepped in to ensure that parents had got their money back.

The parents have paid between Dh1,300 and 2,100 for a term.

This is one of the several transport woes being faced by parents and pupils in the UAE since schools re-opened this Sunday.

Another parent said, “When my son and his friends said the school was going to be closed again for a week, I thought they were playing a prank. But, later when a parent rang me up and confirmed the closure, I was shocked. Our money was refunded and we are glad we got it back,” she said, adding that the school should have worked out logistics earlier and it should not have closed again. “Since parents cannot drop them everyday, I guess this is the best solution.”

Though St Mary’s Catholic High School authorities declined to comment on the issue, the school’s web site stated, “With the failure of Safetrans to collect students from school, as agreed, the matter immediately became a police case.

“Safetrans has returned the school money and cheques collected by them for transport services. We would ask students/parents who have registered with Safetans to come to school on Monday, with their original receipts in order to have their cash or cheque refunded.”

The web site added that the previous company, Al Zarouni, would re-register the students already registered with Safetrans. “It will take Al Zarouni at least two days to re-organise the service.

“For this reason, school will re-open on Sunday (September 7). We apologise to both staff and students for the inconvenience caused to them. We had been working very hard since the month of April in order to organise the transport.

“We were badly let down by the company, that had given all assurances, even in a personal meeting on Saturday, (August 30) that everything was in place for the service to run.”

A transport official from Al Zarouni said the school had called the police when Safetrans authorities did not answer phone calls or send buses to the school.

“They feared that the company had done away with their money when no one responded to their calls. We will be picking up and dropping children from next week,” he said.

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