Picture used for illustrative purpose only.
Sheikha Al Naqbi, Staff Reporter
The length of the school bus trip, back and forth, exposes students to fatigue, especially those in the first grades, in addition to wasting time that could be used for useful things, as students spend at least two hours on bus from and to school every day.
This report seeks to find solutions to such persisting issue to minimise travel time to ease burden on the students.
Gulf Today, a sister publication of Al Khaleej newspaper, met with a number of school principals and an official in Emirates Transport, to find out the reasons for the long trips of school buses that definitely exhaust students.
It also met with parents and students, who demanded that school bus routes be allocated and trips be rescheduled to shorten travel time.
Some private schools enroll all students, whether they live within or in areas far from their geographical location in transportation service, with the aim of achieving as much as possible of financial gains, ignoring the suffering that students will face due to the hours they spend on bus, and the negative effects.
There are other buses that stop 45 times in each trip. In other words, there are about 45 students on it, and they are the only affected by this suffering.
25% of the school day time
Students suffering from this issue explained that 25% of the school day is spent on school buses. The bus trip takes about an hour from school to home, while it takes 15 to 20 minutes in the car.
Student Karim Alaa said, “There are eight classes with 45 minutes each in the school day, which is 6 hours in total excluding breaks. In addition, we spend an hour in the morning on the bus to school and the same on our return. Thus, we spend 8 hours a day in school between classes, with 25% of the school day is spent on school buses going to and from school.”
He stresses the importance of finding a solution to such an issue, especially in the winter, as we have to leave the house before sunrise to catch the school bus, and arrive home after school ends in the afternoon, calling for the use of minibuses to shorten the school trip time.
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Student Nadia Al Yamahi said, “My time on the school bus in the morning takes a full hour, while my arrival home at noon takes more than an hour. This is because we are on a bus that passes through two different areas, and the number of female students on the bus is very large. I arrive home after 4:00 pm everyday. I informed the school principal and she promised me to provide one more bus.”
Student Salem Al Tamimi added, “In the first week of school, there were several problems on the bus. The number of students on each trip was very large, and thus the route became longer each time, which forced us to stay on the bus for a longer time. We arrive at school on time after a one-hour-long trip, while on return, the route becomes longer because on the large number of students on board, and we arrive home late. But the problem was later solved by transferring some students to other buses.”
As for student Obaid Al Zaabi, he said, “My family and I recently moved to Al Shamkha, and the school I attend is in Al Bateen area. It takes an hour and a half every day in the morning and the same in return in the afternoon. My father suggested me to move to a school close to home, but I did not like the schools outside Abu Dhabi and and I don’t want to change my school.”
Hamad Al Zaabi said: “I go to school every day by school bus, and I wake up in the morning at six o’clock, and because I am a second cycle student, the bus arrives early at 6:20 in the morning, and I arrive at school within an hour during which I remain on the bus. The distance from school to home take around 20 minutes by car.”
Student Hadi Abdelwali adds: “The length of trip in the morning is not the same in the evening, as in the morning we arrive at school faster, in an hour or even less, while in the afternoon it is longer, due to some students being late getting on the bus, which results in waiting to board.”
Bus stops 45 times
Student Mamdouh Taleb said that every day, he goes to school on a large bus that accommodates 45 students. This means that the bus stops 45 times in each trip, and this is one of the reasons, why the bus comes early every day. It arrives home at 6:15 am and we reach at school at 7:00 am, while at the end of school day, it leaves at 2 pm and we arrive home at 3:15 pm.
Picture used for illustrative purpose only. Photo: Kamal Kassim
Student Maitha Jassim said: “The bus I take serve a large number of female students, which causes a delay in arriving to school. It arrives home at 7:15 am and reaches at school at 8:20 am. After school day, it leaves at 3:00 pm, and I arrive home at 4:15 pm or later. This means that I spend more than an hour on the bus. I hope another bus will be available, so that the trip time will be reduced to reach home as quickly as possible.”
Student Abdullah Al Waleed added: “I and my schoolmates are facing some problems with the buses. Being students in the third cycle, they go to the Elite Private School inside Abu Dhabi, while their homes are outside Abu Dhabi. Therefore, they have to be on the bus at 5:30 am, knowing that the first class starts at 7:15 am, while the last class ends at 2:10 pm. They arrive home at 3:50 pm. I hope that Elite Private School will be provided in areas outside Abu Dhabi, as the closest school is an hour away from their homes.”
Fatigue and exhaustion
Student Aisha Mohammed said: “I always arrive home late, because of the long trip of school bus, and the worst thing is that I am the last student to get off the bus. It takes a full hour to arrive at home, knowing that in the morning I am the last student to get on.”
A number of parents spoke about the long travel time of school bus, calling on schools to increase in the number of buses, especially small ones, to help reduce the trip duration.
The mother of the student, Hamad Al Zaabi, said, “Sometime school buses have to wait in the morning before houses for students who are late in leaving, which causes a delay in arrival of students. I hope that parents adhere to the bus timings, to ensure that the students do not stay longer on the bus.”
Iyad Adel’s mother, added, “One day, when my son returned from school, he was exhausted, and when I asked him about the reason, he said because of the long time he spent on the school bus, as the school day ends at 2:00 pm, while he arrives at 3:15 pm. The school is not in the same area, where we live, and the bus serves two areas.”
Schools' reactionA number of public school principals preferred not to comment on this issue, while a number of private school principals confirmed that a number of measures had been taken to reduce the time of the school bus trip.
Dr. Hatem Darwish, director of a private school, said, “We contract private companies for school buses. The number of buses the school needs has reached 6 buses, and since the first week of the school, we have not faced a problem, as we moved the students’ departure time to noon to avoid delaying their arrival at home. The longest trip is about 40 minutes, as we use minibuses.”
Picture used for illustrative purpose only. Photo: Kamal Kassim
He added that his school set a maximum limit on the school bus travel time to 45 minutes in one direction. It only accepts students in the vicinity of the areas served by its buses, and provides buses commensurate with the number of students registered with it.”Fouad Al Marsoumi, director of another private school, confirmed that students should not stay on the bus for more than an hour. This would be solved by increasing the number of buses to accommodate all the students according to their areas.
Lee Dabagia, director of a private school, said, “Since the beginning of the school year, we have increased the number of buses, to ensure that students do not stay for more than an hour. The school also provides a bus supervisor, who distributes students to buses according to residential areas and route, to ensure that they arrive on time.”
Emirates Transport's stand
Amer Juma Al Shehhi, Director of the School Operations Department of Emirates Transport in Abu Dhabi, said that the Transport Corporation is not responsible for all the problems related to school buses in the emirate, due to the diversity of companies that provide buses for schools.
Emirates Transport is obligated to provide buses for government schools only. Some private schools resort to the corporation to the corporation, while other contract private companies that provide school buses.
He added, “We call on all schools to ensure that the maximum trip time to or from school an hour is not more than an hour, so that students do not get tired and exhausted, especially in the afternoon.”
“Sometimes exceptional circumstances occur that are beyond our control and lead to the student spending more than an hour, such as traffic congestion and some students being late on getting on the bus in the morning,” he added.
Al Shehhi urges all schools to adhere to the period specified by the corporation, as the complaints received regarding non-compliance are followed up through the monitoring teams.
All school buses are connected to monitoring devices in order to know the trip time, he added, pointing out that early contracting with transportation companies, reduces problems, such as delays in ride, and providing the school with buses in the event of an increase in the number of students. The buses’ crewmembers are also properly trained to adhere to all laws.
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