How safe is your child in school?

How safe is your child in school?

Several parents reacted with shock and disbelief, expressing their grief on social media platforms.

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Muaz Shabandri

Published: Thu 9 Oct 2014, 9:08 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 5:23 PM

Dubai — Safety in school buses will come under the scanner once again after the tragedy. The news sent shockwaves across the country’s school community, serving as a chilling reminder for schools about the critical role they play in keeping children safe. Several schools expressed grief over the incident.

“It is very unfortunate that such an incident has taken place. Sometimes you have the best systems and regulations, but schools need to build a culture of value and understanding in the people who work with children. People who are given responsibility for the children should understand their critical role at all times,” said Dr Farooq Wasil, CEO of Goldline Education in Dubai.

The Springdales School run by Goldline Education follows a “safety-net” approach, with different layers of protection to avoid incidents of students being left behind in school buses. “Bus entry and exit is always monitored and log books are maintained. Once a school bus returns to the school, the driver inspects the bus. Later, a transport coordinator also inspects each bus. A third check is conducted by a school administration staff to ensure there are no lapses,” he said.

Several parents reacted with shock and disbelief, expressing their grief on social media platforms. One parent called the incident an “unforgivable ignorance” on the school’s part.

Strict laws

While a thorough investigation will bring to light what led to the girl’s death, transport regulators in Dubai and Abu Dhabi enforce strict laws to protect children.

In 2007, Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) issued a set of exhaustive guidelines for schools, transport operators and parents.

The School Transport Manual clearly says the bus conductor is responsible to “ensure at the end of the trip, that the bus is empty and all students have departed the bus, taken their bags and personal belongings”.

Similarly, the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport also has guidelines to ensure safe school transport. In its transport guidebook, bus drivers are instructed to follow safety protocols.

The guide reads, “All school bus drivers should ensure that no students are left on board at the final destination point and display the ‘No Students On Board’ sign at the rear of the bus.”

However, this was not the case on Tuesday at the school where Nizha studied. Everything went against the school’s ‘Safety First’ policy, which is clearly outlined on the school website. “As soon as children enter (the) school ground, their safety and security is one of our priorities; the school is committed to ensuring a safe and happy environment for your child,” says Ali Nazzal Al-Sarhan, Head of safety department at the school.

Unfortunately, for the three-year old child, the school’s safety policy was not followed by the transport staff on the tragic day.

What the Abu Dhabi school transport manual says...

Responsibilities of school bus drivers

1 Perform daily inspection of buses before driving including lights, tires, body, and seats, and make a report of any defects to the operator.

2 Ensure that no students are left on board at the final destination point and display the “No Students On Board” sign at the rear of the bus.

3 Do not allow students to stand in the bus during the journey and inform the operator of any violation by students.

4 Ensure the availability of first aid supplies and fire extinguishers in the bus.

5 Before starting a journey, ensure that entrances, exits and aisles of the bus, including emergency exits, are not obstructed in any way.

6 Prepare the bus so that it is ready to receive passengers. This includes cleaning and ensuring the temperature inside the bus is between 24-21 degrees Celsius.

7 Do not exceed the maximum speed limit, and should not exceed 80 km/h at any time regardless of posted speed limit.

8 Use the stop arm and warning lights when students are crossing the road.

9 Do not allow any student to depart from the bus except at the stop designated for that student unless having written instruction from the school.

10 Maintain professional appearance and wear assigned uniform while on duty.

11 Present school bus driver permit to authorized inspectors upon request.

12 Refrain from eating, drinking and using the telephone while the bus is moving.

13 Do not smoke or allow others to smoke on the bus.

Responsibilities of school bus supervisors

1 Ensure that all students are seated while the bus is moving and are using seat belts where they are provided. No student is to be seated in the center seat of the rear row.

2 Ensure that no students are left on board at the final destination. - highlight

3 Ensure students under 11 years of age returning home are dropped off with a guardian. In case the guardian is not available, inform the school that the student is being returned to the school after the remaining students are dropped off.

4 Ensure students behave and look after their safety during the journey. Report any incidents to the school transport coordinator.

5 Ensure doorways, aisles and emergency exits are clear of any obstructions during the journey.

6 Assist students with crossing the streets.

7 Assist in evacuating the bus in case of emergency.

8 Use car seats for students below four years of age in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

9 Refrain from eating, drinking and using the telephone while students are on the bus.

10 Participate in educating students about traffic safety and how to use the bus, and supervise any entertainment program on the bus

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