October 09 2014
DUBAI // Schools and transport companies said all buses should be fitted with electronic tagging systems to trigger an alarm if a pupil remains on board when they are not meant to be.
Their calls for improving safety follows the death of a three-year-old girl who was forgotten about on her school bus in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
“We have put in many initiatives to ensure the safety of students,” said M L Augustine, managing director of School Transport Services, which carries about 58,000 pupils to school across the UAE.
“All our buses are fitted with an electronic attendance system so no child gets left inside the bus. The students have barcoded IDs that they have to scan every time they enter or leave the bus.
“Once the vehicle reaches its destination and the driver gets off, he has to scan his ID as well. If a child is in the bus, our control room will immediately get an alert to let us know.”
The technology was fitted five years ago in all the company’s 1,400 buses and Mr Augustine believes it should be standard across all school buses.
STS has another system – the sleeping child check button – which was installed at the rear of all its buses a year ago, to further eliminate errors.
“At the end of the trip, the driver has to go to the back of the bus and press this button within a minute of the ignition being switched off,” Mr Augustine said. “Otherwise, an alarm is set off in our control room. This ensures he walks through the entire bus and checks for any child being left behind.”
One Dubai school said it had also installed an electronic tagging system. “The driver scans every student’s ID when they get in or leave,” said Rashmi Nandkeolyar, principal of the Delhi Private School, in The Gardens. “Between 7.45am and 8am, the teacher takes attendance in the class and it’s fed into our system. An online report is generated and if there is a mismatch, we will know.”
Mrs Nandkeolyar said schools should not rely only on technology.
“Each driver and attendant has to carry out physical checks. The checks are important, particularly in the mornings. Parents think the children are in school and the teacher may think they are absent.”
Officials at Emirates Transport (ET) agreed. “The supervisor is given a list of the students taking the bus,” said Aamer Al Sheehi, manager of Abu Dhabi school transport at the company, which runs 4,700 buses.
“This list is cross-checked when all the students are picked up and then checked again when they are dropped. If the student’s house is across the road from the bus, then the supervisor has to hold the student’s hand and cross the road with them.”
Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport stipulates that to prevent children being left aboard at the final destination, school buses have to display a “Vacant” sign.
“If the sign is not on, it means that there is someone on the bus,” he said, adding that if a pupil failed to get on the bus, it was the supervisor’s responsibility to alert the school, which in turn alerts the parents.
In its Dubai School Transport manual, the Roads and Transport Authority mandates bus conductors to ensure at the end of the trip that the bus is empty.
ET said it had plans to get pupils to wear a wristband or scan their fingers when getting on and off the bus, after which a text message would be sent to parents to inform them.