Lessons learned from the tragic Buraidah accident


Al-Madina newspaper

THE tragic death of 7-year-old female student, Rawan Al-Rasheed, who died after she was accidentally run over by her school bus two weeks ago in the city of Buraidah, has shocked the Saudi society. The news of her death was the front page story in all local newspapers and people discussed the accident for a long time on social media. Saudi Channel MBC also dedicated a long segment to discuss this accident and interview the family of the poor child, including her father and uncle. Both have put the blame on the Ministry of Education and called for a detailed investigation and to implement justice. The same program also discussed another accident in Al-Ahsa province of a child of six years who was killed in the same manner. This showed that there is a problem in student transportation, especially for children.

We have seen people placing the blame on the Ministry of Education, although there is a private contractor who is taking care of student transportation. It is not clear whether this contracting company is taking care of student transportation all over the Kingdom or just in the region of Al-Qasim.

There were discussions that the condition to hire school bus drivers should be tough that would require them to have certain high skills, just like in other countries. School bus drivers in other countries undergo training and tests that could last for six months before they are hired for this position and to be responsible for the safety of children. Punishment for those who endanger the lives of children out of neglect is severe in other countries. That is why only drivers with long history of experience and high training are selected and are hired on good salaries. While in our country, only the retired are hired and they are old and their salaries are low, and that could be the reason for neglect.

When I was in Long Island New York, in the US, I was walking near a school bus garage, the famous yellow buses. I saw a sign hanging on the fence saying that school bus drivers are needed. The sign was up for a whole month and I noticed that the number of buses in the garage were less than before, which signaled that very few people were hired. This caught my attention and I called the number to ask about the job. I was told that many people are applying every day but most of them do not fit the requirement of school bus drivers, so they get rejected. Very few people meet the requirement. Those hired must read the conditions and rules and regulations of the job because the safety of the students will be their responsibility and they will be subject to punishment if there is neglect.

There are not many buses available in our schools and that is why fathers take responsibility of driving them to and from schools. One of the things I have noticed in the US and in the UK, the organization when students go to school and when they are dismissed. People are hired and wearing a shiny uniform and carry a big STOP sign. Children will not cross the street until the STOP sign is raised and traffic stops in both directions. The STOP sign is also attached to the side of buses. So when a bus stops fort students, the STOP sign goes out to stop the traffic in both directions for the safety of students.

We are not in the blame game here, we need to benefit from the experience of other nations to avoid such tragedy in the future and to protect our children.