RTA lays out stringent qualifications for school bus monitors

Move introducing strict guidelines comes in wake of alleged assault on four-year-old on school bus.

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DUBAI // School bus monitors will undergo stringent licensing procedures beginning from the next school year, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has announced.

All buses in which female students are riding and buses for students regardless of gender from kindergarten through Grade 6 will have female monitors aboard, the RTA said. All monitors have to be at least 25 years old and have completed high school, with priority given to those with a bachelor’s degree in educational disciplines.

The announcement came two weeks after a Dubai court heard a case against three Indian men accused of sexually molesting a four-year-old girl in their charge aboard a school bus. The girl’s father said the RTA’s move was too little, too late, adding that the rules could have protected his daughter if they had been enacted sooner.

“Society here is more reactive than proactive,” said the father, who asked not to be identified. “Without a doubt, if these regulations were in place at the time my daughter was assaulted the assault would not have happened. At least this will save someone else’s child.”

The new set of regulations came after a meeting between the heads of the RTA, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority and the Community Development Authority. The RTA said earlier this month that the measures were in the pipeline and would be released shortly.

“[The] RTA has examined the current situation as regards school bus conductors in Dubai Emirate and reviewed the prerequisites for practicing the school bus conductors’ profession in the United States, United Kingdom and Hong Kong to familiarize with the best global practices and experiences in this field.”

Monitors will have to be well-mannered with no judicial claims or criminal offences registered against them, the RTA said. They must also submit to medical fitness tests and be well versed in school transport law and first aid. They will also have to attend specialised RTA courses.

Teachers or assistant teachers can serve as bus monitors but must go through the licensing process and qualify for the positions just like any other applicant, the RTA said.

A spokesman for the GEMS Modern High School, which contracted the bus on which the incident allegedly took place, said that the school had been working to recruit female monitors since that time but had found it difficult to attract them.

“GEMS Education was the first school provider to announce that they would support the recruitment of female conductors on buses,” the spokesman said. “This recruitment process began a couple of months ago and the implementation of this policy will continue.

"We have, however, not found it easy to source and recruit female bus conductors which will affect the time taken to fully implement what is required."