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Sunday , January 17 2021

School Transport

I am a regular reader of Arab Times, especially the Legal Clinic and I truly appreciate the service. In past you have answered my queries and I am truly thankful for that but now I have another one.

Recently in India, a school going child died due to negligence of school bus driver. The school bus driver had dropped the child on the other side of the road and a car hit her when she was crossing the road to go to the other side where her mother was waiting for her as usual. In all Indian news they were discussing the law for school transport. And I came to know as per the law all the school buses should have the following: CCTV camera in school bus. GPS in school bus. Along with bus driver, an attendant should be there to help the children get in and out of the bus safely.

My childrens are studying in one of the reputed Indian schools in Kuwait and the buses do not even have school logo as they have outsourced school transport and there is no CCTV, no GPS, no attendant/ maid in the buses for children’s safety.

Kindly enlighten me about the Kuwait law regarding school transport.

Name withheld
Answer: Unfortunately, there is not comprehensive law for private school transport. The only thing required by the Private Education Department is that the schools ensure the safety of the school-going children if they are using the school transport, which in most cases — as you have also pointed out — has been outsourced.

Yes, some of the schools have a very good transport system with a very set of rules to ensure the safety of the children. They also have supervisors or attendants aboard these buses but then such private school transport is very rare.

What we, on the other hand, see in Kuwait is a very low level of transport (in most cases, not all). Some of these buses and vans break down almost every day.

There are no attendants aboard most of such transport. We also notice a very unique situation here in the middle or lowerend level of schools — although even parents keep quiet on the issue — is that some of this transport is privately run by some of the teachers. In not too rare cases, some teachers are even seen driving these vehicles.

The Ministry of Education and the Private Education Department only step in when there is some accident. The school is then sanctioned … after a lot of noise everything returns to “as it was before”. On the other hand some of the schools have defined a very strict set of rules for the safety of the students using the school safety.

Not only do these schools provide the printed copies of these rules to the parents, they have also posted these on their websites. And they regularly hold inspections, plus solicit views of the parents, to ensure the implementation of these rules.

Some of these rules focus on the behavior of the students on the buses, fixing of the bus stops by the schools, handling of complaints from the parents (in some cases these go directly to the principal), reservation of seats or fixed seats on the transport, eating and drinking aboard the buses, compulsory use only those buses on which students have been allotted a seat (and not any school bus), how/where the buses are supposed to pick/drop the students, how buses must be marked, etc.

Having said the above on the situation in the private sector schools, the situation is very different in the public schools where Kuwait has a very organized school transport system. It also mostly doesn’t have supervisors aboard the buses. Almost 10 years ago — in 2007 to be exact — Kuwait initiated a pilot project to have retired teachers on board these buses as supervisors but then didn’t further implement these project because of the huge costs involved.

There are around 1,200 schools in Kuwait with almost 75 per cent of these government and the rest private but compared to the other countries in the GCC it’s school transport system is not at the same level.

Some of these countries have a very good school transportation system. In the end, we would like to stress that most private schools — especially the good ones — have very strict school transport rules although these are not given too much importance by a number of them. It all depends on the parents to ensure that the schools implement these rules. If you feel that any of these schools is not ensuring the safety of your child you can file a complaint, first with the principal of the school and then with the Private Education Department, located in Salmiya, Area 10. You can also approach the Ministry of Education.

While Kuwait has rules and regulations for the school transport it lags behind other GCC states in this regard.

For example, Abu Dhabi in 2014 started implementing a very strict system in this regard by issuing a “School Transport Guidebook” which focuses on new regulations to ensure that all school buses have the highest standards of safety and security.

These buses have also to be equipped with advanced technology applications with the technical specifications of these buses laid out. With almost all GCC countries following suite, it is likely that Kuwait may also in the near future introduce and implement a “school transport law”. But for the time being, parents must ensure that the schools of their children implement the rules and regulations they have designed for themselves.

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