Indian school district authorities have distanced themselves from school bus accidents in Oman, washing their hands of the responsibility of the lives of thousands of children that are transported to school each day in often un-roadworthy and sub-standard buses. In addition, a lack of documentation and legal obligations keeping bus operators in check means that these vehicles will continue to put Indian children at risk.
School bus contractors in Oman are not held responsible for bus accidents as there is no written contract between the parents of the children who travel on the buses and the bus contractors. The contractors charge monthly fees for the transportation service without giving the parents receipts, meaning that the parents have no legal proof that they paid for bus services and therefore have no means of taking legal action against bus companies in the case of an accident.
India has some of the highest rates of school bus accidents in the world, with hundreds of children being killed each year – mostly as a result of poor bus maintenance or driver error. Alarmingly high rates of accidents have led to many parents choosing to drop their children off at school themselves, making use of car pools rather than the school bus services.
On October 31, a 10 year old boy died instantly and 14 other children were injured when their 15 seater school bus crashed into a road divide in Seeb while transporting the children to school. Investigations after this accident revealed that the regular driver of the vehicle, an Omani national, was on leave and had left the country for the Eid holidays. He sent his young, inexperienced son to transport the school students in his absence, with the parents of the children unaware of this change in transport arrangements.
According to official police reports, it appears that the young man dozed off while travelling at high speeds and veered into the road divider, causing the horrific accident.
Although Indian school officials claim that it is not within their jurisdiction to deal with the high incidence of bus accidents, they have requested that the Royal Oman Police put necessary directives in place in order to diminish the risk of accidents. Worried parents and teachers will be meeting with the Indian Ambassador to Oman, J.S. Mukul, to raise their concerns. The meeting will serve to request that the Ministry of Education put improvements to the school bus system in place to check the alarmingly high rates of school bus accidents in the region.