Gems Jolts Parents by Hiking Bus Fee

Preeti Kannan
Filed on March 2, 2009

DUBAI - Parents of over 15,000 
students of a private school network in the UAE will have to shell out up 
to double the present transportation fees in the next academic year, following the group’s decision to outsource the bus service.

Global Education Management Systems (Gems) has sent circulars to parents of students in five schools across the UAE, informing them that the schools would no longer provide transport.

In what is seen as another in a series of controversial decisions, Our Own English High School (OOEHS), Sharjah, Sharjah Boys’ Branch, Fujairah, Al Ain and Abu Dhabi will outsource the bus service from April 1, while Cambridge International School and American Academy in Abu Dhabi will stop the service in September. Instead, Bright Bus Transport Company will pick and drop students.

The move, which was first implemented in nine Dubai schools last September, has not gone down well with parents. Parents of students in a Gems school in Abu Dhabi claim that the revised monthly transport fee is more than the school’s monthly tuition fee.

“Outsourcing of buses will commence from April 1, and parents have already been informed of this. We have obtained approval to outsource transport from all the necessary authorities. By the end of this (academic) year, all Gems schools in the UAE will outsource the transport services,” said Dr Farooq Wasil, director of Asian Schools, Gems Education, in a written statement to Khaleej Times.

“Over the last few years, there has been unprecedented increase in the costs associated with transportation services.Earlier, school tuition fees and transportation fees were packaged together as part of the school service.This optional, yet very important, service has been provided by Gems Schools at a subsidised rate for many years,” said the statement.

The group, which runs 26 schools in the UAE, recently drew flak from families after its Dubai Modern High School announced a tuition fee increase of 90 per cent when it moves to a new campus. “There has been no increase in school transportation fees since 2006. Even then the increase was very nominal and insufficient to cover costs. This is why the transportation services have been outsourced,” said Dr Wasil.

About 10,000 students in the Sharjah schools alone currently use the bus service provided by the group. The overall increase in transportation fees ranges from 42 per cent to 96 per cent, while in the two schools in Sharjah, the hike is by 105 per cent.

“In times of recession, how can schools possibly hike fees by more than 100 per cent?” a parent, who did not want not to be named, asked in a letter to Khaleej Times.

Another parent, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed that OOEHS – Abu Dhabi had increased monthly bus fee from Dh100 to Dh150 in 2006 for services within Abu Dhabi and to Dh250 for other areas. “But, as per the circular from the transport company, the new fees will be Dh300 within Abu Dhabi and Dh330 for transporting students from outside the emirate. Plus, three months’ fees will have to be paid in advance. The increase is 100 per cent,” he said.

“The school tuition fee is only Dh270 but the transportation fee is Dh300. When we spoke to the school officials, they had no answers. Bright Bus Transport Company, on the other hand, said that they will take up this issue with the school management,” he added.

“Many of us are struggling to maintain our current jobs and do not expect any pay hike. The employers are seeking to reduce salaries in anticipation of decrease in cost of living. This unreasonable hike in transportation fee is unjustifiable in this current financial crisis,” said parent of a student in a school in Sharjah.

“I do sympathise with the parents, especially during this downturn. But, we will not operate the transport service for anything less than the quoted price. We don’t intend to increase the transportation fees again this year,” said Colonel Augustine, MD of School Transport Services, which operates Bright Bus Transport.

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The outsourced Transport Company is either wholly owned by the Great Mr. Varkey or by his immediate family! The buses, the staff, the Supervisors and their Management are all the same!! The new company name and its name-sake staff are only sitting there to collect money on behalf of this Shylock! - Anonymous

GEMS are creating monopoly because the parents have no other option. Parents cannot change their kid’s school overnight. The government should intervene take over such private schools in the interest of the common man. - Anonymous

The standard of education in the own school has gone down and nobody in the school management cares about it. They are only interested in stealing money from the students. - P Kumar

It’s absolutely nothing other than looting the people by giving excuses of outsourcing the school transport. The outsourced company is part of GEMS itself only to show it to public they have published and formed another company by the name of Bright Bus transport. These operators last when they increased the price in Dubai schools they gave excuse that it was due to the increase in diesel prices and now the price of fuel has come down almost 60% but they have not reduced the transport prices. Further the transport price are more than the tuition fees and even a transport from Karama-Jebel Ali is only AED 250 and these people charge somewhere around AED 275-300 from Karama to the school which is near the second interchange. In the name of school they have turned this into a money making business. - Anonymous

The GEMS School only want name and fame. They want to give charity to show people how charitable they are but they ask the students to donate money for these causes and the big guys get all the popular awards to show the world how generous they are.- Rose Cash, Karama

The Management has released this information at a time when most schools are fully occupied and parents have little time to consider continuing their wards education in the GEMS group. GEMS group have the largest cumber of schools within the UAE. They know that even if 20-30% of the students were to vacate the schools now, they could run on the fee-hike of those staying back. But the GEMS management has to carefully weigh their decisions, unless they want to go back to being the grass-root school that they were back when they started. They are pushing parents too-hard-and-too-fast in these grim economic times. -Thomas, Dubai

My children are studying in GEMS school, since past three years I found this management is doing only profitable business without caring the future of the children. They did not found the way to hike the tuition fees than what we will hike the transportation. GEMS think about it in this period of recession. - Ali, Sharjah

The way in which the GEMS management handling the fees and bus fee is unacceptable. I really wonder how they do this. It looks like they can do whatever they want. Even the authorities keep their eyes shut for these types of unacceptable practise, is also not a good practise. - Asha, Dubai

Considering the current financial crisis, would request GEMS Management to have a little mercy on the parents who is struggling to meet to their day to day life. - Rasheed, Dubai

Does anybody care for a common man? Can anybody do anything? The answer is a big NO....then what’s the point!! God have mercy...please put an end to all this. That’s my prayer. - Niyaz, Dubai

I guess the GEMS Management have gone out of their senses. I would like to remind them of the Law of gravity. It’s a difficult time for the common people. Maybe we (common people) do not have any reply to what is happening here. Have a Great day GEMS & Quick end. – Anonymous

This GEMS group of schools totally cheating the people in UAE. No one will accept such fee hike in the present situation. Parents should stop sending their pupils in the GEMS schools. They don’t have any sympathies towards peoples but they want to do only business and earn money. But they should keep in mind that “Every day is not a Sunday”. - Rahul, Sharjah

The motive of GEMS is very clear. Use schools to make money and more money. There seems to be no ethics in their actions while they preach Global values. How can we expect our children to grow as model citizens when the school they attend preaches only commercial value to everything they handle? Suresh, Sharjah

I remember the school transport fees being around Dhs 60 in the late 90s. Seems like the management wants to get whatever they can through the students during this recession. How things change. – Fazal, Bangalore

Looting in broad day light what else? Are they taking the kids in a helicopter? How does one justify a 100 percent increase in charges for the same old bus and facilities? -Maney, Sharjah

My children study in a non GEM school. They hiked the bus fees from DHS 185 to 470. The schools are more into money making business these days. For two children I have to pay AED 940 monthly. This is equal to the monthly instalment I'm paying for my saloon car. Why shouldn’t I buy another car and ask my wife to drive two kids school? I think that is the better option. Then there will be one more car adding daily to the traffic jam. - Anonymous, Dubai

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