The dispute between schools and bus operators about adding more safety features has ended, with the School Bus Owners Association (SBOA) agreeing to fit Closed Circuit Television Cameras and a Global Positioning System before schools re-open.
The SBOA said it has roped in the services of a security company from the United States to introduce these facilities.
Over 1,500 school buses will be fitted with the cameras and a GPS system to keep an eye on the children and track the bus. Security features currently in place include safety grills on windows, women attendants, bag racks and special paint to identify school buses.
The GPS will enable parents to track the exact location of the bus and its route. They will also receive a text message when the bus is minutes away from the child’s boarding point. Parents will only have to give a missed call to the call centre that will be set up by the company.Live footage from the CCTV will be viewed by school authorities and the bus operators.
Earlier, there was disagreement between the bus operators, schools and parents over what new safety features need to be added.“We did not want to compromise on children’s safety and hence added these features. However, we want the government to make such features mandatory for private vans and BEST buses also,” said Anil Garg, president, SBOA.
The need for tighter security measures was felt after the recent spate of molestations of children by school bus attendants inside buses.
The SBOA will also decide whether or not to allow parents to access the live footage as well. The added security features will cost parents at least Rs100 per-child a month, driving up the bus fees by a minimum of 20%. “We have left it up to the school and Parent Teacher Association to decide whether they want such features. We have found companies offering these features at a nominal cost but the rent and insurance of CCTV cameras is expensive,” he added.
Parents say they don’t mind paying extra for safety. “A CCTV was the need of the hour as school buses have become extremely unsafe,” said Anita Kulkarni, a parent.
Schools such as Jamnabai Narsee, Juhu and CNM, Vile Parle have already opted for the security system. However, small schools, especially those in the central suburbs, have not signed up yet.