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Times of Oman - 14.04.2015

She said both her daugh­ters were dropped by the bus on the op­po­site side of their res­i­dence.

“The helper was sup­posed to bring the child to the par­ent, but he did not do it. The el­der one crossed from the rear of the bus, while Jes­tifer walked across from the front. It was then that the driver started the bus and knocked her down. He did not even no­tice that he had hit the child as the bus ran over her. It was only when I ran to her and picked her up, did the driver stop the bus. By then she had suf­fered se­vere head in­juries,” said the girl’s mother.

Mean­while, many par­ents have voiced their con­cern about the state of trans­porta­tion fa­cil­i­ties avail­able in schools in Oman and the com­pe­tence of the driv­ers and helpers.

Terming the ac­ci­dent as a shame, a fa­ther of five chil­dren de­manded that the au­thor­i­ties look into this mat­ter se­ri­ously.

“Every year we hear of such hor­ri­ble ac­ci­dents, but see no strict mea­sures by the au­thor­i­ties. School buses must have re­quire- ments like in civilised coun­tries. School bus driv­ers must have min­i­mum five years of driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Mea­sures taken

“School buses must carry a su­per­vi­sor and have GPS mon­i­tored sig­nals...etc,” Hus­sain Ab­dul Aziz Al Sa­jwani, wrote to the Times of Oman, adding that he is wait­ing to hear from the con­cerned min­istry on what mea­sures they have taken in the past five years to avoid such ac­ci­dents.

Another par­ent was also of the same view.

“All school bus driv­ers need to have at least 10 years of driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Be­fore em­ploy­ing them on buses, their pre­vi­ous track record has to be scanned for ma­jor traf­fic of­fences if any. Once se­lected, they need to un­dergo spe­cial train­ing and coun­selling by the Royal Oman Po­lice (ROP),” said Ja­sion Mathai, a par­ent.

“All school bus driv­ers need to have at least 10 years of driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Be­fore em­ploy­ing them on buses, their pre­vi­ous track record has to be scanned for ma­jor traf­fic of­fences if any. Once se­lected, they need to un­dergo spe­cial train­ing and coun­selling by the Royal Oman Po­lice (ROP),” said Ja­sion Mathai, a par­ent.

“More­over, reg­u­lar mon­i­tor­ing by the po­lice is de­sired,” he added.

Mean­while, To­nia Gray from Com­pe­tence HR, said that just hav­ing driv­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tions is not suf­fi­cient. There needs to be on­go­ing as­sess­ment to en­sure that a high level of com­pe­tence is main­tained and reg­u­lar spot checks un­der­taken.

“Per­haps, bus in­spec­tors rid­ing on buses as­sess­ing driv­ing qual­ity can be one op­tion. The ROP also needs to take greater re­spon­si­bil­ity in ini­ti­at­ing ac­tion when they see mis­de­meanours on our roads. Un­for­tu­nately, af­ter pass­ing a driv­ing test, the rules are ig­nored and it seems peo­ple be­lieve ‘it will not hap­pen to me’,” said Gray, the gen­eral man­ager at Com­pe­tence HR.

“Per­haps, bus in­spec­tors rid­ing on buses as­sess­ing driv­ing qual­ity can be one op­tion. The ROP also needs to take greater re­spon­si­bil­ity in ini­ti­at­ing ac­tion when they see mis­de­meanours on our roads. Un­for­tu­nately, af­ter pass­ing a driv­ing test, the rules are ig­nored and it seems peo­ple be­lieve ‘it will not hap­pen to me’,” said Gray, the gen­eral man­ager at Com­pe­tence HR.

“I do, how­ever, think that this ac­ci­dent — from what I have read — is not just the fault of the bus driver. Agreed, he should have been care­ful while pulling away af­ter drop­ping the chil­dren off. He may not have seen the child if he was talk­ing on his phone, which is neg­li­gence on his part. How­ever, the child should not have crossed from the front of the bus but from be­hind it, and all chil­dren should be taught this,” noted Gray.

“I do, how­ever, think that this ac­ci­dent — from what I have read — is not just the fault of the bus driver. Agreed, he should have been care­ful while pulling away af­ter drop­ping the chil­dren off. He may not have seen the child if he was talk­ing on his phone, which is neg­li­gence on his part. How­ever, the child should not have crossed from the front of the bus but from be­hind it, and all chil­dren should be taught this,” noted Gray.

Mean­while, a mem­ber of an In­dian school man­age­ment com­mit­tee said that the fo­cus should be on at­ten­dants.

Role of at­ten­dant

“An at­ten­dant can play a vi­tal role in a school bus. Chil­dren, es­pe­cially small ones, need help. So, the gov­ern­ment should think about per­mit­ting schools to ap­point at­ten­dants in school buses. This can erad­i­cate risks such as the lat­est one,” said the man­age­ment com­mit­tee mem­ber.

Guide­lines

On March 5, the de­part­ment deal­ing with buses at the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, is­sued guide­lines re­gard­ing stan­dards which gov­ern­ment school buses must meet.

To re­duce the risk of stu­dents be­ing knocked down, the min­istry had de­manded that pub­lic school buses should have front and back sen­sors in­stalled to avoid such ac­ci­dents in ad­di­tion to cam­eras, sen­sors, fire ex­tin­guish­ers, seat belt cut­ters and first aid boxes.

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