Abu Dhabi: The father of a four-year-old boy who died after being left locked on the school bus said he is shocked that such a paltry fine was imposed on the school.
"I am shocked though I'm satisfied with administrative action taken," said Shabin Sreedharan, the father of Aatish, 4 who died after being left locked on the school bus on April 24. The boy used to study at Merryland Kindergarten.
A statement from the Ministry of Education said a fine will be imposed on the school. Administrative action like suspension of all transactions with the school for its failure to comply with rules will also be taken.
Although the statement did not mention the amount of fine, Gulf News has learned the school will be fined Dh5,000. The ministry said the parents can take legal action and seek compensation from the school and transportation company.
"I don't believe this. A heftier fine is imposed for traffic violations," said Sreedharan. "I think the administrative action taken by the ministry should act as a deterrent to schools which flout rules. But a Dh5,000 fine is very meagre - even if slapped on an individual, let alone a school," he said.
He said the Abu Dhabi Educational Zone had earlier found that school had failed to inform the parents about the absence of the child at the school.
The ministry has found the school guilty for neglecting the safety and security of children. The school failed to appoint a supervisor on the bus, a nurse and a student counsellor, according to the statement.
The ministry warned the school to fix these failures and ordered it to cancel the existing contract with the transportation company.
If the school fails to comply with these warnings and orders, the ministry will put financial and administrative matters of the school under its supervision until the end of this academic year, said the statement.
The ministry found the school's contract with the transportation company illegal as the contract places the transportation company responsible for the safety and security of the children.
A circular was immediately sent by the ministry to all private schools, stressing the existing rule which says the safety and security of children during transportation is the school's responsibility.
A committee under Abu Dhabi Education Zone (ADEZ) will monitor the implementation of the action taken by the ministry against the school, said the statement.
The suspension of the transaction will hamper employment of new staff by the school, apart from day-to-day administrative matters with the ministry, said a ministry official. He also disclosed that that the ministry had ordered that the salary of a school staff be docked because of the incident.
The school said it did not want to comment on the ministry's decision. "We are looking into it," said a spokesperson of the school. In an earlier statement it had said that the school is not responsible as transportation was outsourced to a private company.
The transportation company told Gulf News on Monday that its contract with the school will expire at the end of this month. "The contract has not been renewed," said Mohammad Basheer, Manager of Falcon Al Suhail Gen Transport. He admitted the negligence on the part of driver and conductor in the incident. "It was not deliberate".
A police official said the case has been referred to Public Prosecution following a medical report which said the child died due to an unknown illness.
"The driver was given bail and the search for the conductor was called off based on the report." The ministry statement says the boy died due to suffocation because he was left sleeping on the bus unattended.
Have you heard of a similar case involving school negligence? What was the outcome? How do you think the school should be penalised? Why? Tell us at email@example.com or fill in the form bellow to send your comments.