Sharjah parents turn to carpooling after school bus fee increases

Rises of up to 52 per cent force some to start driving their children in

A Sharjah school bus. Parents have turned to WhatsApp to arrange lifts for their children because they cannot afford transport fees. Pawan Singh / The National
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Parents in Sharjah have turned to car sharing for their children after some private schools increased their bus fees.

Several schools increased their transport fees this year, with rises ranging from 20 per cent to 52 per cent.

Parents of children attending Rosary Private School said fees have increased from Dh3,500 to Dh4,500.

“I didn't register my three children for the school bus this year because I can't afford it,” Younis Mohammed, 45, told The National.

“Instead my brother and I are car-sharing despite work commitments.”

Mr Mohammed, who is from Jordan, said he drops the children off at school in the morning, while his brother picks them up in the afternoon.

I didn't register my three children for the school bus this year because I can't afford it
Younis Mohammed

His brother, Yousif Mohammed, who has two children in the same school, said traffic this year has become worse since parents are driving to school.

“Many parents, some of who I know, didn't register their children [for the bus] since fees were increased,” said Yousif Mohammed.

Mother-of-two Qamar Mohammed, 39, said the International School of Choueifat, where her children are enrolled, also substantially increased the bus fee.

Parents were sent fee tables – seen by The National – that showed trips within the emirate have risen to Dh5,500, from Dh3,600 last year.

“The fee surged from Dh5,100 to Dh6,500 for journeys from Sharjah to Dubai, while costs increased from Dh4,200 to Dh5,700 for trips from Sharjah to Ajman,” she said.

The National approached Rosary Private School and the International School of Choueifat for comment but they did not immediately respond.

Community help

Car-sharing in the UAE is legal, but it is illegal if drivers charge for rides.

In 2019, Abu Dhabi's Department of Transport launched a carpooling system to help reduce the number of cars on the road.

It aimed to allow residents to sign up to offer lifts to others, as well as look up potential rides from others.

Ms Mohammed said some parents have turned to WhatsApp groups to find others who are willing to car-share.

“Each mother is looking for a parent who lives in the same area, asking them to drop off the children and another parent to pick them up,” she said.

SHARJAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , September 24 – 2020 :- Outside view of the Victoria English School in Sharjah. New Covid safety setup in different areas of the school such as hand sanitizer, safety message, social distancing stickers pasted on the floor, disinfection tunnels installed at all the gates of the school. Schools in Sharjah are opening on 27th September.  (Pawan Singh / The National) For News. Story by Salam

Sharjah Private Education Authority previously told The National that private schools are entitled to apply for fee increases in accordance with governing rules.

The authority also clarified that any change in fee structure is communicated to parents explicitly, during the initial enrolment or re-enrolment.

Financial burden on schools

Amin El Nezami, chairman of Victoria English School in Sharjah, told The National that operating school buses is not profitable.

“Generally, almost all private schools in Sharjah are not making a profit from buses because the operational costs are high,” he said.

These include, he said, licensing from different authorities in each emirate as well as the cost of a bus, which is Dh400,000.

“More costs come from insurance fees, fuel prices, drivers and supervisor salaries, not to mention the costs of regular bus maintenance,” he added.

Emirates Transport, which caters to 246,924 pupils across 615 schools in the UAE, told The National that bus rental prices for schools are influenced by several factors.

The age of buses, whether the lease is based on the number of buses or pupils, whether a supervisor is needed and whether specific technology is required must all be taken into account.

The company said it has competitive prices and does not sacrifice service quality or safety for its fleet of more than 9,100 vehicles.

Updated: September 19, 2023, 12:00 PM