Abu Dhabi: Parents who were angered in response to an unexpected 100 per cent transportation hike in one of the GEMS schools are now willing to compromise by paying 10 to 15 per cent over the original fee, Gulf News has learnt.
Our Own English School-Abu Dhabi (OOES-AD) which was unable to sustain the cost of buses decided to outsource the service to a transportation company known as Bright Bus Transport Company (BBTC), resulting in a fee that jumped from Dh150 to Dh300.
The decision dismayed and shocked parents as the matter was not discussed with them beforehand.
Z.Y., a healthcare professional who has placed both his children at OOES-AD said: "In my seven years of experience with [the school], I have never read a single clause mentioning anything about the transport facility being an optional service, and now the school's justifying its action by telling us that bus services are optional for parents."
"After selecting the BBTC, the school approached the Abu Dhabi Education Zone (ADEZ) for approval and confirmation, again while keeping parents in the dark. We were shocked when we received the circular with the hike a few days later," added Z.Y.
Hearing this side of the story, Mohammad Al Dhaheri, Director of the ADEZ, agreed that the school should have informed the parents of their decision before approaching the ADEZ.
"The issue here isn't so much the increase; it's the lack of communication with the parents. Had the school spoken to the families first, things wouldn't have escalated," Al Dhaheri told Gulf News, emphasising that, in general, ADEZ carefully reviews any requests sent from schools.
"Dh300 is justifiable if safety measures are in place on board the bus, ie, seat belts, GPRS, and extra services such as a television screen in each bus to help keep children entertained," he added.
Recently, eight parents, two representatives from BBTC and a senior official from the Consumer Protection Department at the Ministry of Economy (who asked not to be named), met for 20 minutes to discuss hike.
Z.Y., who was present, spoke about details discussed during the meeting: "[We] parents expressed how upset we were with being kept in the dark like that. Bright Bus said they are new to Abu Dhabi and that their fares start from Dh300. The official asked them to reduce the price and if they want to submit their documents to justify the hike, which will then be studied by the higher committee and a decision will be made."
Another parent present, V.A., said that the ministry official asked the BBTC manager to reduce the price to Dh150 and then to apply for a fee increase with the necessary documents so that it can be re-evaluated.
Feedbak from the Consumer Rights Protection Department at the Ministry of Economy:
Despite several attempts made by Gulf News to contact the concerned official who chaired the meeting held last Monday, the official refused to comment or be named. However he did say that this specific complaint has been lodged by the department, and like any other complaint will be reviewed by a committee.
"We will be taking to the transportation company. Other than that, I cannot comment, nor do I want to be quoted or named," said the senior official. The official from the Ministry of Economy who chaired the recent meeting said that the complaint has been lodged by the department and, like any other complaint, will be reviewed by a committee.