Muscat: Omani telecommunication firm Omantel has assured parents that they will be able to track the movement of nearly 3,000 public and private school buses soon.
The ‘Darb Al Salama’ (Road Safety) initiative launched by the company in 2018 — a project to manage and track public and private school buses in Oman which currently covers 650 vehicles — will extend its coverage to nearly 3,000 by the end of the year. Omantel has stressed that “safety is the top priority”, as it builds on its technological advances to enhance safety measures on school buses, hand in hand with the Ministry of Education.
Manager of Press & Media at Omantel, Muna Al Mamari, said, “We are leveraging technology to continue playing a pivotal role in the Sultanate’s growth and, as education is key to the future, we have been keen on supporting E-learning through various initiatives. With the safety of children on school buses deemed increasingly important, we have decided to extend our cooperation with the Ministry of Education beyond E-learning, and we will continue to grow this partnership to promote a favourable and safe atmosphere for students.”
While using any of the school buses covered by Darb Al Salama, each student will have to scan their designated card on the card reader; this will send a notification to their parents. In total, four SMS are sent out every day – the first one before the bus arrives at the student’s home for pick up, the second when it reaches school, the third to notify the departure of the bus from school and the last when the student gets off the bus to go home. Parents can also track the bus route through Education Portal.
Some buses are also equipped with monitoring cameras, both inside and outside, and as a precautionary measure, the engine button is set at the back of the bus, ensuring that the driver will have to walk through all the seats before ending his day. In the unfortunate case of a child being left behind, the buses are equipped with a sensory detector that will send alerts on any abnormal movement while the engine is off.
“Complete details of the school bus for students and parents are included in the system.” Al Mamari noted.
In a message to school bus drivers, she said, “Smart technologies help us to work smarter; however, it is the sole responsibility of the school bus driver to ensure the safety of students while on the bus. Therefore, using new technologies does not mean abandoning the safety procedures already in place. For instance, the bus driver should never neglect checking the bus thoroughly before getting off, based on the fact that that he would receive an alert if any child was left behind.”
Dr Ali Humaid Al Jahwari, director-general of the Directorate General of Education in Muscat and head of the Technical Team at Darb Al Salama project, said, “We urge all parents to make use of this project by tracking their children while on the school bus through the Educational Portal or its mobile App as well as enabling SMS notifications. The main goal of this project is to ensure a maximum level of safety for our children while commuting to and from school, in addition to enabling the ministry to monitor school buses and drivers’ adherence to the contract terms in day-to-day responsibilities.”
“Last academic year, we managed to cover 677 school buses in Darb Al Salama project. Currently, we are working to include an additional 1900 buses, in the Governorate of Muscat. We hope that we will eventually be able to cover all the school buses in Muscat, which will digitize school transportation in the capital and offer schools a digital data base to monitor students’ transportation at all times.”