School bus tragedy sparks review over pupils’ safety

Times Graphics

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.


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Reader Comments

A very sad incident
It was reported that omani driver went asleep while driving.

However most of occasion mostly drivers are seen playing with mobile and tablets while driving. Omani authorities have to take stringent measures against such individuals.
This van driver was picking kids from seeb starting early morning at 5 or 5:30...his little disorder in his routine sleep of previous night might be the reason for such a crucial incident.

School Bus!
instead of private bus, which is driven by all unknown drivers. Why dont we a company licensed to do so. All drivers name and telephone numbers written with the school admin team. And the school can have a overview that who is driving and who is not!.

this is sick, that the schoold does not support its childrens.

Devan Sukhnani
Ex - ISM Student

Would like to know Oman Governments response to this issue. Is there any action plan to improve the safety of the students transport?

Pls put mobile signal jammers in the buses.
Many times seen that the drivers are on mobile during driving.
Also a low experienced driver should not be allowed to drive school buses.
Also the system which was proposed in the newspaper last week to get information regarding speed and sharp turns should be adopted immediately.
School buses should be with speed limit of 60-80 kmph.

From the statements of various school authorities in the above article, it seems to me that now things are going back to what they were before. No fundamental changes in the transportation system is expected and the transporters will not have to make any improvements except being given a reminder that they should drive safely. With time the memories and stories of the latest accident will fade and transporters will be back to their business. The solution is to put training, processes, controls, checks and balances in place that these types of accidents dont happen again and dont just to give reminders after every accident. I hope my assessment is wrong and that they will do more than merely giving reminders to the transporters.

As usual the Indian school management does nothing except crying over the financial issues. At least the PSM and Bangladeshi schools have summoned the transporters and instructed them about the safety of children and have some future plans in layout. But India Schools are busy crying. Arent PSM and Bangladeshi schools expatriate schools. Still they consider children security as a primary concern. However, Indian School has done absolutely nothing in this regards. With the highest number of student on count, imagine the amount of fees that is extracted from the students, still they say they have no funds. At least be honest to yourselves so called Board members. You all are good for nothing. Absolutely nothing.

This is regarding to this action should be seriously implemented to all schools and other organisations.