Tracking devices for 3,000 school buses by year-end

Muscat: Thousands of schoolchildren will be protected with safety and tracking equipment in buses as part of the Darb Al Salama (Road Safety) project. Launched in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Omantel last year, the project currently manages and tracks 450 buses in the public and private schools.

This number is set to increase significantly by the end of this year, reaching nearly 3,000 buses. “We are leveraging technology to continue playing a pivotal role in Sultanate’s growth and as education is key to the future, we have been keen on supporting E-learning through various initiatives,” said Muna al Maamari, Manager of Press and Media at Omantel.

Omantel builds on its technological advances to enhance safety measures on school buses, hand in hand with the Ministry of Education.

“With safety of children on school buses deemed increasingly important, we have decided to extend our cooperation with the Ministry of Education beyond E-learning, and we will continue to grow this partnership to prompt a favourable and safe atmosphere for students,” she said.

Upon getting on or off any of the school buses covered by Darb Al Salama, each student will have to scan their designated card on the card reader; this will send a notification to their parents.

In total, four SMS are sent out every day — the first one before the bus arrives at student’s home for pick up, the second when it reaches school, the third to notify departure of bus from school and the last when the student gets off the bus to go home.
Parents can also track bus route through Education Portal.

“We anticipate Darb Al Salama to gain momentum this year as the number of buses covered
by the project will rise significantly,” she noted.

Some buses are equipped with monitoring cameras from inside and outside, and as a precautionary measure; the engine button is set at the back of the bus, ensuring that the driver will have to walk through all the seats before ending his day. In an unfortunate case of forgetting a child behind, the buses are equipped with a sensory detector that will send alerts upon any abnormal movement while the engine is off.

“Complete details of the school bus, students and parents are included in the system,” Al Maamari noted.

In a message to school bus drivers, she said: “Smart technologies help us to work smarter; however, it is the sole responsibility of the school bus driver to ensure the safety of students while in the bus.

“Therefore, availing new technologies does not mean to neglect safety procedures in place. For instance, the bus driver should never neglect checking the bus thoroughly before getting off based on the fact that he would receive an alert if any child was left behind’’.

Dr Ali Humaid al Jahwari, Director-General of the Directorate General of Education in Muscat and Head of the Technical Team at Darb Al Salama project, said: “We urge all parents to avail this project by tracking their children while in school bus through the Educational Portal or its mobile App as well as enabling SMS notifications.

“The main goal of this project is to ensure a maximum level of safety for our children while commuting to and from school, in addition to enabling the ministry to monitor school buses and drivers’ adherence to the contract terms in day-to-day responsibilities’’.

“Last academic year, we managed to cover 677 school buses as part of the Darb Al Salama project.

Currently, we are working to include additional 1,900 buses in the Governorate of Muscat. We hope that we will eventually be able to cover all school buses in Muscat, which will digitize school transportation in the capital and offer schools a digital database to monitor students’ transportation at all times’’.