Dubai: Parents of children studying in GEMS schools who fail to pick up their wards dropped off by the school bus will have to pay a fine of Dh20 an hour.
This charge is to cover the supervision of their wards in school where they are returned if they are not picked up.
Parents of kids studying in Grades 1 to 3 told XPRESS that they were asked to sign an undertaking to this effect by the transport provider, School Transport Services (STS). “Basically, we are made to agree that if our child is returned to the school, we will pay Dh20 per hour as a contribution towards the cost of STS providing ‘adult care at the school to oversee the safety of our child’,” said a mother.
She said: “This is ridiculous. Of course we would take care to be at the bus stop on time to pick up our children. But what if we miss the bus by a few minutes or the bus comes early?”
Another parent said: “Not only do we have to go all the way to school to pick up our children if we happen to miss the bus, we are being monetarily fined as well. It’s almost like a ticking meter when they talk of Dh20 per hour.”
According to the undertaking, parents have to specify where they would like their child to be dropped off and be physically present or arrange for an authorised person to be physically present to receive the child. If these and other conditions are not met, the child is returned to the school from where the parents are responsible to collect them. It is for this wait period in school that the hourly Dh20 is charged.
M.L. Augustine, STS Managing Director, said: “The primary objective of STS is to transport all children safely. With that in mind, all children below Grade 6 must be met by a responsible adult. For children from Grades 4 to 6, parents can complete a form that states they are happy for their child to leave the bus unaccompanied. For Grades 1 to 3, we have given various options to parents and they too need to sign a form. If this is not signed, we have a high duty of care to ensure that the child is met by a responsible adult who has a parent ID card issued by STS. Without a parent’s written permission, we cannot leave a child unattended, neither can we slow the scheduled drop-off as this then impacts other families waiting down the route.”
He said: “The charge made to parents for ensuring a child is safe and looked after by a responsible person, until such a time a parent can collect the child, is to cover costs only. We provide this as an emergency service to parents and do not expect a high level of use. We have been insisting on this for students up to Grade 4 earlier. However, we have started issuing the parent ID now to make it easier for parents to authorise anyone to collect their children.”