DUBAI // The transport company that runs the school bus service in which a four-year-old girl was raped late last year has been given a Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) award for ensuring safe travel for children, to the anger of some parents.
School Transport Services (STS), the emirate's largest school transport provider, was one of five companies that won Dubai Award for Sustainable Transport honours for safety and conservation initiatives.
The awards, established by the RTA to encourage the public and private sectors to reduce congestion and improve safety, were presented during a recent ceremony at the World Trade Centre.
The school transport category, newly added to the awards programme, was for "safe mobility for students, safe transportation of students and teachers and continuous training of drivers," an RTA statement said.
The STS victory upset parents at the Dubai school where police say a four-year-old girl was sexually assaulted on an STS bus in November.
"It's ridiculous that STS have been given this award," said Ray Choudhury, whose son attends the school. Because of the attack, he said, the award "should be revoked immediately".
The bus driver, another worker and a supervisor have been in custody since the victim's father contacted police on January 13. They have confessed, police say.
"I think it's sad that they have decided to give the award to STS … I feel particularly sad for the child who was attacked," said Raheem Khan, who has a son at the school. Withdrawing the award would push other companies to improve safety, he said.
A spokesman said that while the RTA sympathised with parents, the award and the attack were not related.
"It was an unfortunate, tragic incident and I understand what parents are saying. I would feel the same," said Peyman Younes Parham, the RTA director of marketing and communication. But "the company has been working on transport sustainability for more than two years and these are two separate issues".
STS could not be blamed for the actions of individuals, he said.
M L Augustine, the STS managing director, said the company was committed to ensuring the safety of the more than 40,000 pupils who use its buses. "I invite parents to come to our office and check our services," he said.
A spokesman for Gems, an education company that employs STS to transport its pupils, said parents had stopped only one of the school's 2,156 pupils from using the buses.