There are 3200 school buses in the UAE , in the main, these are operated by Emirates Transport Company serving 720 schools in the country.
In order to raise the awareness of the importance of School Transport, on the 7th June 2010 the NTA has held a coordination meeting in Abu Dhabi that was attended by strategic stakeholders in the UAE including Ministry of Education, Ministry of Interior, Local Transport Authorities, and various education councils, the meeting brought home the critical nature of school transport . The school buses discussions were led by NTA team including HE Eng. Abdulla AL Katheeri, Executive Director of Land Transport Sector and Dr. Nadhem Bin Taher, Director of Roads Department. HE Abdulla AL Katheeri stated that “it is necessary to benchmark our School Transport System against the best in the world and follow International Standards and Industry Codes of practice to raise the School busses standards”.
Key issues that were tackled during the meeting included the following:
a) Safety of students;
b) Competency and professionalism of school buses drivers;
c) Capability of school buses organisations, and the competency of their management and supervision;
d) Responsiveness to emergencies;
e) Shortcomings of school buses specifications;
f) Need to introduce progressive harmonization of standards across the Emirate.
It was highlighted the growth in the UAE population had increased the number of students and there was a definite need for integrating the efforts of the Federal, Local and private sectors to ensure there is a complementary and efficient School Transport System that is economical, avoids traffic congestion, reduce the use of cars and serves the pupils, parents and schools well. Furthermore, the safety and security issues were discussed particularly with respect to monitoring pupils behaviour during travel, clamp down on any vandalism, and there was a call for the installation of cctv cameras in side the school buses and provide a capability to monitor the movement of the school buses at all times. Also, there was a call for particular monitoring of school transport during transport events or using the school buses for such purpose to avoid sport hooliganism and potential harassment of school buses.
HE Abdulla AL Katheeri added that “the NTA is actively working with other strategic stakeholders to provide transport facilities and systems that are of high quality, high safety standards, and compliant with International Standards so that our pupils reach their schools safely and reliably. Harmonisation of school transport standards in the UAE is a vital goal also it helps cooperation between various authorities and encourages collaborative working to encourage the use of school transport systems across the country”.
The achievement of Dubai in the field of School Transport Systems was also discussed particularly with respect to Dubai-based regulation No. 2 (2008) as well as the efforts of the Department of Transport in Abu Dhabi in the planning of school busses guidelines and the Emirate Transport Company work on school transport guidelines. It was agreed that Dubai’s school bus draft specification would be adopted and strengthened as necessary and put into use. Furthermore, it was agreed to establish a national committee to develop the School Transport Systems and progressively introduce harmonised standards across the Country.
Dr. Nadhem Bin Taher performed a presentation on behalf of the NTA highlighting the key standards associated with school transport in the UAE as a whole. Dr. Nadhem stated that “School Transport System serves a large, but important part of the UAE society that is our children and future generation. Clearly, high-quality, safe and reliable school transport is paramount to ensure our children reach their respective schools on time and without being impacted by traffic congestion. Caring for school transport is indicative of the importance we attach to education and our culture of learning.