Dubai: Some students unable to get seats on school buses

File photo
File photo

Dubai - School says it is short on drivers; it is working to fix the issue


Nandini Sircar

Published: Mon 4 Oct 2021, 4:22 PM

Last updated: Mon 4 Oct 2021, 4:34 PM

Some students across Dubai were left stranded on Sunday morning as a shortage of bus drivers put a spoke in the wheels of the school bus transport system.

Several yellow buses took over Dubai’s roads on Sunday morning, as students returned to full in-person learning from October 3. However, not all students could be accommodated in the buses owing to a shortage of drivers.

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>> Only these students can opt for e-learning from Oct 3

“Expected excitement this morning, but sadly STS couldn’t arrange a bus for hundreds of students at Gems Our Own English High School,” a frustrated parent wrote on Twitter. “Requesting @KHDA (Knowledge and Human Development Authority) to allow students to continue studies remotely until then.”

GEMS Education in a statement to Khaleej Times, said: “Due to an unprecedented shortage of qualified drivers and support staff, we have unfortunately not been able to provide our usual capacity school transport operation for some students who require this service at Our Own English High School, Dubai (OOD). We are working hard to resolve this issue with our long-term transport partner as soon as possible. Meantime, we have introduced staggered pick-up as an immediate solution to ease congestion and are in regular contact with all families affected to keep them updated.”

Parents were apparently informed about the same in a letter a couple of weeks ago with a further communication sent ahead of the school day.

On Sunday, remaining students returned to campus learning after a long gap of one-and-a-half years as face-to-face classes resumed in Dubai schools on August 29, for the new academic year/term.

STS Group, one of the biggest school bus operators in Dubai, acknowledged the problem. Steve Burnell, managing director of School Transport Services, said: “Unfortunately, due to a shortage of qualified drivers and support staff, we are currently unable to provide seats for all students who requested our service at GEMS Our Own English High School, Dubai and a few other schools across Dubai.

“We alerted the families affected last week of the problem and again communicated with them over the weekend. However, many parents experienced congestion and long delays yesterday (Sunday) at OOD and we have worked with the school to resolve the issues, with a number of measures including staggered pick-up times from today (Monday) for students who cannot use this bus at the moment. We hope to be able to provide seats for all students who require our service as soon as possible, but will not compromise on our high standards on safety, as we recruit and train new drivers. We will continue to inform families of all updates as the situation is resolved and meantime appreciate their understanding and cooperation.

Transport companies are scrambling to ramp up recruitment of school bus drivers as many had switched to other jobs during the pandemic. Bus companies across the UAE and globally are rushing to fill vacant driver positions as schools resume normal to near-normal operations.

All stakeholders are striving to shield the students from the shortage’s effects with an all-hands-on-deck approach. Schools and transport companies say that while they are ramping up efforts to address the issue, hiring of school bus drivers requires compliance with effective levels of service records, reliability, appropriate training and certifications, besides adherence to other stipulated regulations.

Who can skip school?

Students no longer have the option of distance learning unless they fall under one of the three exception categories outlined by the KHDA.

Only students with chronic medical conditions can continue with remote learning, but they must provide a medical report stating why they cannot attend school. Similarly, students who live in a household with high-risk individuals who cannot be vaccinated are also exempted.

Additionally, anyone outside the country and cannot return due to international travel restrictions can also opt for distance learning, provided they show relevant documents supporting the same.

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