UAE: Will school buses increase transport fees in new academic year?

Most institutes adopt a watch-and-wait approach while parents consider alternative arrangements



by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Mon 6 Jun 2022, 7:42 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Jun 2022, 9:57 PM

The recent hike in fuel prices has forced some schools to consider raising transportation fees. Reflecting global hikes in fuel, prices in the UAE increased by more than 13 per cent in the month of June, reaching to over Dh4 per litre for Super 98 and Special 95.

Institutions anticipate an increase in the school bus operators' costs and are putting in requests with their respective education regulators to revise transportation costs when schools reopen in September.

Abhilasha Singh, Principal, Shining Star International, Abu Dhabi, says, “Due to the continuous rise in fuel prices, we are left with no option but to put in a request with Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) to increase the bus fees.

"Otherwise, it will be a huge additional expenditure for the school, with us running into losses. I am sure most schools will eventually have to request the authorities to allow the increase in transportation fares. Let’s wait and see for now how things pan out in the future.”

Arogya Reddy, Principal, Ambassador School Sharjah, says that although the Sharjah Private Education Authority (Spea) gave them the option to increase transportation fees last year they did not do so. “But given the surge in fuel prices we may have to consider an increase from September onwards," he admits.

"We have witnessed an increase of 120 per cent in one year. This is a bit worrisome. Although we are not allowed to increase any kind of fees in the middle of the academic year, we are weighing the situation due to the rise in oil prices worldwide and waiting to see how it impacts locally.”

Schools across all the Emirates are trying to shield parents from incurring the additional transportation costs but may not be able to as prices keep increasing.

Khaleej Times contacted the STS Group, one of the biggest school bus operators in Dubai, but they could not comment immediately as the matter is still under deliberation.

Punit MK Vasu, CEO, The Indian High Group of Schools says, “As a non-for-profit community group of schools, we were given the option by the authorities to apply for a tuition fee increase but we chose not to do so. As of now, we are keen not to burden our parents with any additional costs and fees as parents are gradually finding their feet post the pandemic, and we would very much like to support our parents through these difficult times."

The CEO is looking into alternative options. "We are constantly reviewing the situation of increasing fuel costs and have set up a special committee within our group to review the possibilities of alternative and sustainable fuels such as biofuels in the long run.

"We also think that the current fuel prices provide an excellent opportunity for the relevant regulatory authorities to look into the possibilities of opening the sector to electric buses operating within the UAE. We will take an informed decision on transport fees in September depending on the situation at that point in time.”

Some schools have made fee hikes at the start of the Indian curriculum’s academic year in order to insulate the students and parent community from any future surge in transportation fees. These schools do not need to revise their fees for some time.

Pramod Mahajan, Director and Principal, Sharjah Indian School says, “We increased the transportation fees from Dhs 180 to Dhs 210 at the start of the academic year in April as we partially anticipated this and because our bus fees are still lower than the fees stipulated by the regulators which is Dhs 225. But the hike in petrol and diesel prices is certainly a matter of concern for all. The rest of it will have to be absorbed by the school.”

Parents look for alternative options

Meanwhile, some parents are weighing their options in light of possible transportation fee hikes.

Sharjah resident Nisreen says, “The increase in fuel price and other things is worrisome. While we are hoping that the school transportation doesn't increase the fee any further, there is very little hope. If they do, we will have to opt our children out of the transport and pick up and drop them on our own - it will still work out cheaper that way.”

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Kowshik Nandi says, “We were considering opting for the school bus for our son in the coming school session as both my wife and I are working. It becomes difficult to drop and especially pick up our child from school as we get caught up in meetings. But given the hike in fuel prices, we will now try to carpool instead of opting for the school bus services.

"The bus fees would have roughly come to Dh830 per month. The school is close to our house but the bus charges are likely to increase due to the increase in global prices. We were in two minds anyway, but now it’ll become even more uneconomical for such a short distance.”

Ami Rasheed, a parent, says, "We have two children going to school and we are completely dependent on the school bus for their transportation to school and back. The school transportation takes up a huge chunk of our budget as it is already on the higher side. A hike at this time will add to our worries as it may put more pressure on our budget. We must manage our monthly budget. If increased further, we would need to consider alternative options.”


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