Driving them up the wall!

Muna al Balushi, a citizen and a resident of Muscat, had paid more than RO 1,000 before she could get a driving licence.

“My instructor had asked for RO 7 for every one-hour driving class. Each time I failed the driving test, I ended up paying RO 40. I failed several tests and paid him every single time,” said Al Balushi. According to her, it was a huge amount to pay and an additional burden on her parents. Many citizens as well as residents echo the same feelings. Many have appealed to the police to ensure the fees isn’t increased further for issuing a driving licence. In the past few years, the fees for obtaining the licence has increased
manifold, with learners having to shell out huge sums for the same. Just sample this. Earlier, a one-hour driving class would cost RO 4-5. Now, the figure has gone up to RO 8. This is apart from the fees for driving test. Here, it’s the instructors who fix the fee for the driving classes. In contrast, in a contract system, a specific amount is agreed upon by both parties (learner and instructor).

The ‘hours system’, however, does not specify a fixed amount. By the time a learner gets his/her licence, he/she would’ve ended up paying a huge sum. When asked, an ROP official said regulating the fee is not the police’s responsibility as it is a “civil case between students and instructors”. “There should be a prior agreement between the two parties. A student has a wide choice. He/she can choose what is best for him/her depending upon their convenience and budget,” said the official.

“If there is any violation of the terms of agreement, the aggrieved party can go to the civil court,” he added. But the problem lies in the fact that most agreements in the hours’ system are not written contracts. They are an “oral agreement with no written commitment”. Learners complain of having several issues, but being unable to do anything about them. These include instructors skipping classes, no limit on the number of learners per instructor, using mobile phone when teaching and not turning up on time. Ahmed, a learner, said some driving instructors would go on long leave of absence without giving prior notice. “We cannot even switch to a new instructor because they have our driving form/ book,” he said. In another extreme case, Risvana, a resident of Muscat, changed her instructor seven times and ended up paying RO 2,500 over a three-year period. Her tale of woes included driving instructors “bunking” after collecting fees in advance as well as using mobile phones when imparting lessons, putting their life as well as that of their students in danger.