UAE school bus tragedy: Parents concerned about absence of qualified supervisors on board

Many private schools decided to limit the number of supervisors because fewer students have been using school transportation since the pandemic


Afkar Ali Ahmed

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File photo for illustrative purposes
File photo for illustrative purposes

Published: Sun 20 Feb 2022, 11:39 AM

Last updated: Sun 20 Feb 2022, 10:51 PM

Following the tragic death of a 12-year-old student who was run over by a school bus in Ajman, parents in various emirates have raised concerns about the lack of supervisors on board.

Some others complained that schools have not employed qualified supervisors who hand over students to parents, help them cross the road and assist them in carrying their heavy bags when they're getting off the bus.

The concerns were raised after investigations into the death of the 12-year-old girl — Sheikha Hassan — revealed that the bus did not have a supervisor on board.

Aisha Al Matroushi, an education expert, said many private schools decided to limit the number of supervisors and drivers because fewer students were using school transportation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For many schools, paying salaries to supervisors and drivers — either directly or through transportation companies — was a great loss since students have been alternating between in-person classes and distance learning for two years. Parents also refused to pay schools' transportation fees since most children were at home. As a result, several bus drivers and supervisors were laid off.

When education authorities in the country announced the resumption of in-person learning, many schools did not hire supervisors. Instead, Al Matroushi said they decided to depend on drivers to protect students while travelling to schools or homes.

She added that some private schools' management have said they returned the bus fees to parents at the beginning of the pandemic based on orders issued by authorities concerned.

Mohamed Suliman, an HR staff of school management, attributed the lack of supervisors to the low number of students who use school transportation. Supervisors are only assigned to lower grades — from kindergarten to Grade 4. Older students are being supervised by the drivers.

By the next academic year, Suliman said schools will hire a full staff of drivers and supervisors and implement property safety and security measures for students.

Parents urge authorities to hire supervisors

Umm Ahmed, a parent of a Grade 5 student at a private school in Ajman, said her son, who uses the school bus, doesn't have a supervisor to help him cross the road. Many times, she said she has seen the bus start to move without the driver ensuring that her son has safely crossed the other side to reach home.

"I don't blame the bus driver, as he needs the help of the supervisors to ensure the safety of students," Ahmed said. "We urge the authorities to hire a qualified supervisor to ensure the safety of students until the end of the academic year."

Another concerned parent, Weam K, said her daughter's school bus supervisor is "always on the phone" and doesn't help students carry their bags when they get off the bus.

"Many times, I had seen the driver about to run over students while passing in front of the bus to go home," she said. "I alerted them several times and also complained to the school management, but no action has been taken. (The supervisor) continues to behave unprofessionally. I urge schools to hire qualified and responsible supervisors to ensure the safety of students."

Ibrahim Khano, another parent, said schools must ensure supervisors and drivers are aware of the safety rules. He added schools also need to educate students, especially young children, about safety procedures while using buses, which includes not disturbing the driver by playing and speaking loudly.

Bus drivers doing their best

If a supervisor shows negligence, Mohamed al-Janusani, a school bus driver, said he takes it upon himself to get children off the bus and ensure they get home safely.

Another driver, Ahmed Taher, said he ensures the bus is empty before leaving the school parking lot in the mornings and he repeats the inspection every afternoon after the children are dropped home.

But Taher said some supervisors get busy on their phones or are sometimes lazy to get off the bus and hand students over to parents. The failure to do so can cause accidents, as young children are short and drivers may not be able to see them if they're crossing the road alone.

"The supervisor needs to be on the bus to ensure students' safety," he said. "I always try to control the students and make them sit in their seats or prevent them from doing something wrong, such as sticking their heads out of windows."

Penalties for ignoring 'stop' signs

Lt-Col Muhammad Allay Al Naqbi, director of the Traffic and Patrols Department at Sharjah Police, said the department had carried out several awareness campaigns to ensure students' safety.

He added that bus supervisors were told to help students cross the street and hand them over to their parents or guardians.

Al Naqbi also urged school bus drivers to abide by the traffic laws and drive within the speed limits. Supervisors were told to refrain from using their mobile phones while on the bus.

Moreover, motorists were reminded to stop in both directions on a two-way road when the 'stop' sign is flash, at five metres from the school. Those who ignore the sign will be fined Dh1,000 and 10 black points will be registered against them.

Bus drivers have also been reminded to display 'stop' signs on the buses while picking up or dropping off students. Failure to do so can result in a Dh500 fine and six black points will be registered against them.

The bus drivers are reminded to display the ‘stop’ signs on the buses while picking up or dropping off students. “The penalty for not displaying the ‘stop’ sign is Dh 500 and six black points, he added.


Measures to ensure students' safety

Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and other authortieis have provided the following control measures to schools, parents, and transport operators to ensure the safety of students:

- Appoint a qualified bus supervisor, and provide all students and parents with their contacts details.

- The direct bus supervisor must map out the routes of the school bus and get them approved by the school principal.

- Provide a means of communication between the driver and the direct supervisor throughout the trip.

- The supervisor is required to attend the prescribed training courses.

What must students do?

- Pick-up/drop-off: When approaching the pick-up or drop-off point, take caution while crossing the roads. Never run to or from the bus; just walk normally.

- Outside the bus: Don’t stand in the danger zone. If a child can touch the bus, they are too close.

- Take your seat: Take your seat promptly, buckle up and sit properly, facing forward at all times.

- On the move: Keep the aisle of the bus clear at all times. Always keep your head, hands and arms inside the bus. Remain in the seat until the bus comes to a complete stop.

- Listen and obey: Always listen to the directions of the school bus driver and school bus attendants. They are true experts and their word needs to be followed the same way as teachers’.

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