MUSCAT: A plan to hand the running of all school buses of Omani and expat children to a public transport company is being seriously considered, an official at the Royal Oman Police (ROP) told Times of Oman.
A number of accidents have raised concerns about the safety of the school transport system. Three Indian children, one Indian teacher and two Omani drivers died in an accident in Nizwa when they were returning from a pleasure trip.
Shortly after that an Indian Class III student from Seeb Indian school was dragged by a bus inside the school compound for a few meters and is now undergoing treatment at orthopaedic department in Khoula hospital with damaged pelvic bones. “There is a serious move to involve public transport system in ferrying school children as many complaints have been recorded from citizens and residents,” the ROP source told the Times of Oman.
However, he added that the plan might take some time to be implemented. “It’s a process which involves many drivers who depend on this for their livelihood. Therefore, the move will be imposed step-by-step so as to give such people a chance to settle down their businesses, and possibly find alternative sources of income,” said the ROP source.
Meanwhile, international school principals were open to ROP’s move.
“We welcome the move. It’s an excellent idea. We will definitely opt for it because safety of children, punctuality and other things will be ensured,” Attaullah Niazi, senior principal at Pakistan School Muscat, told Times of Oman.
On January 22, 2014, two boys and a girl from Pakistan School Muscat were killed when the bus on which they were travelling hit a vehicle belonging to the Muscat Municipality at Qurum Heights Road.
Safety of children
Lt Col Mahmud Ul Alam (Retd), the principal of Bangladesh School Muscat said that safety of children is their priority and so, if the government comes up with a plan to involve public transport system which follows all safety steps, we would definitely follow it. A senior Indian school management official said that it’s the best move to avoid risks in ferrying children.
“Cost escalation may happen. But when we compare it to the cost of children’s life, it’s negligible,” the senior official added. Many senior teachers from Indian schools also welcomed the move.
“I prefer the public transport system to step in for ferrying children. In the present set up, we see severe lapse of security. It’s a mess and the transport of children is in mess. Only good drivers and good buses can avoid accidents,” the Indian school teachers added.
Parents from different Indian schools in Muscat also welcomed the ROP move.
“We all are open to this idea. This is a great initiative. We know that ROP never compromises on safety. So, our children will be safe,” a group of parents from different Indian schools said.
Another parent while welcoming the move thanked ROP for initiating such an idea.
“This is the ideal solution needed at this time. We were worried too much following the accidents. We even were looking for flats nearby school to skip sending children on bus. ROP’s move is a soothing one. Eagerly waiting to see it happen,” Joy Regina, an Indian school parent, said.
Sunil Kumar, another parent, said that they are afraid while sending children to school on buses, even if it comes under safe transport system.
“It was in the safe transport bus system recently that a child was left. Majority of the buses under the safe transport system lack safety measures as assured by the school officials,” Sunil Kumar added.
According to the ROP official, the plan may not necessarily be the Mwasalat buses but they would be part of a public transport company.
Mohammed Khalfan, a resident of Amerat, welcomed the move saying that ferrying of school children is supposed to be handled by a proper authority, rather than individual bus drivers and owners.
“The new move will definitely improve safety in school buses and also employ drivers under proper guidelines,” said Mohammed. The driver who died in the Nizwa accident was 74 years old.
Ali Al Muqaimi, a private sector worker, also welcomed the move saying once this is implemented, parents would be able to go to their work without fearing for the safety of their children.
“I make sure to call several times the driver picking up my child to school every day. Although the driver has a good background, the stories I hear nowadays fill my mind with all kinds of doubts,” said Al Muqaimi. However, Saleh Al Mashari, a school bus driver, feels that such a move would negatively affect him and other peers who make their living from this work.
“This will cut our main source of income,” said Saleh, adding that many drivers have no issues with their work in terms of their performance or eligibility.
“I feel the chance should be open for everybody and the requirements for safety and driving tests can determine who can secure his job under the public transport company,” noted Saleh.