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School group to put nannies on all buses

Staff Reporter
Filed on January 19, 2011
School group to put nannies on all buses

DUBAI — In a landmark decision, GEMS Education announced the replacement of all its male bus monitors with female supervisory staff on all its buses. The move follows a campaign by Khaleej Times to ‘Make your child safe’. Hundreds of letters from concerned parents and readers created a wave of public outcry on existing safety measures.

In a Press statement, Sunny Varkey, Chairman of GEMS Education, said: “After reviewing what extra precautions can be taken over the past few days and, after listening to the views of the community, I am announcing today that GEMS will ensure that all its buses will have female supervisory staff on board and that we are looking to recruit 700 female bus staff,” he said, while expressing his concern over the alleged incident involving a four-year-old girl.

With over 700 buses transporting 40,000 GEMS students every day, the new move is expected to take the total number of female bus monitors from a mere 50 to a full strength of 750 attendants. The move is expected to bolster the safety measures currently in place to protect students.

Implementing the decision in phases, Varkey added, “I am sure parents will understand that implementing this policy will have to be done in phases given the logistics of sourcing and interviewing appropriate staff. We will begin this process immediately, concentrating on deploying the new female staff on the buses transporting our kindergarten students.

“In the interim we will also look to deploy teachers and teacher assistants on board our buses until the last child departs.

Cameras for buses

The school buses managed by School Transport Services (STS) will also be upgraded to include CCTV cameras that will monitor the students and bus attendants.

“I am also announcing that CCTV cameras will be installed in all buses carrying GEMS students. This will be a phased process and will begin with buses catering to younger children. We will be looking at all other measures, including regularly rotating bus staff in order to reduce the time that staff are working together,” Varkey said.

GEMS said that these measures are in addition to the bus company’s current safety measures which includes a state of the art operational centre which monitors bus movements through a global positioning navigation system, electronic student attendance entry and exit system, regular training courses, adhering to regular inspections by the RTA and undertaking regular internal reviews by the company’s fleet inspection team.

He added, “We need to remember that the STS bus company transports tens of thousands of students every day and is looked upon as having the highest safety standards in the industry.

“It is also important to acknowledge the incredible job that our male conductors do day in day out in protecting your children. We must never imply that because of one alleged incident that all male conductors are unable to discharge their duties responsibly. I know for a fact that the large majority of conductors carry out their duties with commitment and integrity. I am sure that most parents would agree that these conductors care deeply for the safety of the children they transport. We need to remember that 40,000 children are transported safely to and from school every day travelling 150,000km. We will be looking at all options with regard to their future employment in the company.”

Parent and family support

Varkey said that ever since the parents of the child contacted GEMS, our senior staff have supported and cooperated fully with their wishes. These staff encouraged the parents to go to the police.

“My message to them is that I and my staff are ready and waiting to assist them in any way we can. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time,” Varkey said.

“As a father, I understand why parents are deeply worried about the safety of their children on school buses. I have always stated that child protection is the single most important issue for this company and we will not spare any effort in ensuring that the highest possible safety and security standards continued to be adhered to,” added Varkey. — news@khaleejtimes.com





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