Muscat: The safety of thousands of school children is under the microscope as three expatriate education authorities take steps after the tragic crash which claimed the lives of three pupils.
Sayyid Fahad, 10, Awais Nazir, 9, and Fareeh Parvez, 16, all Pakistan School Muscat (PSM) pupils, died in the horrific crash last Wednesday. Their unregulated and overcrowded school bus hit a stationary garbage collection truck in Qurum near Petroleum Development Oman (PDO).
Reacting to calls from alarmed parents across Muscat, the Indian, Bangladesh and Pakistan school authorities, which collectively represent close to 35,000 youngsters, all pledged action on 26 January, 2014.
The Indian school authorities, which accommodate around 30,000 students in 19 Indian schools in Oman, were convening a board of directors meeting to discuss the possible steps to be initiated after the accident.
"As we have a large number of students to be ferried and as we are running through a shoe-string budget, we will have to discuss the issue in detail and chalk out plans to ensure the safety of our students while being ferried by transporters.
"There are a lot of complications and logistics issues to be taken care," Tonny George Alexander, the chairman of Indian schools' board of directors, said.
While Government schools have a regulated school transport system to ensure high standards of safety, many expatriate schools don't have the finances to run similar schemes, leading to private arrangements with transport companies.
Still coming to terms with the tragedy, the PSM authorities have told these companies to be more cautious while ferrying the students.
"We have directed the transporters to be more cautious. In the meantime, to ferry students from Mabelah area, those who were travelling in the ill-fated bus which met the accident, the school will provide a bus from February 1 till March-end free of charge.
"We will ensure those children are reaching school and returning home safely. After that, when the new academic year will start on April 1, we will be trying to accommodate children from those areas in a new school in Seeb for which we have got permission in June last year from the Ministry of Education," PSM principal Muhammad Zakriya Babur, told Times of Oman.
There are around 2,300 students studying in PSM and it says only a few are being ferried by transporters. "We are at present collecting data on how many students are depending on transporters for travel.
"This week we will do it and try to find out a solution to ensure maximum travel safety for our students. If we get the final word from the authorities from the government to open our new school in Seeb, then it will be a blessing for us," the PSM principal added.
Meanwhile, according to hospital sources, the condition of the two pupils who survived the crash but remained in intensive care has now stabilised.
Principal Babur said: "We are also in touch with the police to retrieve the belongings, especially the books, of those who were involved in the accident. If we get it from authorities, it will be great. Or else, we will provide the students everything at free of charge which they have lost in the accident," the PSM principal added.
The Bangladesh School authorities said that they have a long-term plan to introduce a transport system fully managed by the school.
"At present we don't own a transport system. But, we have plans to do so. And as an immediate step to ensure travel safety of students, we summoned all our transporters to the school for a meeting and have reminded them that safety of children is our priority," Bangladesh School Principal Mahmud said.
"Even if they come late to school we are ready to accommodate them. But we don't want any untoward incidents to happen," the principal added.
There are around 1,800 Bangladeshi students studying in the school.