x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Red and yellow rectangles help UAE children keep out of danger zones

Young children are being taught the danger zones around school buses, with red and yellow rectangles highlighting areas around buses and stops in which children should take special care.

As part of the Golden Base programme that has been on display at the Al Qayim School in Barsha, the red zone means
As part of the Golden Base programme that has been on display at the Al Qayim School in Barsha, the red zone means "very dangerous" while the yellow area is classified as "dangerous". Children are taught to take 10 steps away from the yellow zone as soon as the leave the bus. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

DUBAI // A safety feature as simple as two colours painted on the ground was demonstrated to delegates on the final day of the first International School Transport Conference and Exhibition yesterday.

Delegates, speakers, exhibitors and visitors were taken to Al Qayim School in Al Barsha to view the Emirates Transport's "Golden Base" programme.

At the bus stop outside the Cycle 1 school, the bus stop has been demarcated with a red rectangle, surrounded by a yellow border.

In class, the children are taught from kindergarten age that the red means "very dangerous, do not walk here" and yellow means "dangerous, be careful when walking here".

They are also taught to take 10 steps away from the yellow zone the moment they disembark from the bus.

"These markings have been made in more than 400 government schools so far, yielding substantial positive results in securing the safety of students and boosting their traffic education culture," said Bader Al Attar, executive director of logistics services at Emirates Transport (ET).

"This is a system we found when we attended transport safety conferences in the United States," said Hussain Khansaheb, from the Roads and Transport Authority.

"We have since improved on it and added some points that are more relevant to the issues we face here."

Also on display yesterday was ET's pilot GPS tracking project that will allow parents to be alerted by text whenever their children board and disembark from a school bus.

This is not the first time such a system has been used in the UAE, but it is the first test undertaken by the Ministry of Education.

"The GPS tracker is already on all our vehicles, but this service allows parents to log in to our website and track their child's bus live," said Mr Al Attar.

"The pilot project is being tested in four kindergartens - two in Dubai and two in Abu Dhabi."

Each child is given a smart card which they wear around the neck. They must tag a sensor on the bus when they board and when they leave the bus, which automatically sends a text to the parent.

"The system is also capable of adding other features to this card, such as using it for the school library to check out books. These capabilities are being reviewed by the Ministry of Education," Mr Al Attar said.

ET said 700 children were taking part in the pilot project, which could be introduced at all government schools.

"Not only do the students get the cards but so do the driver and supervisor," said Jasim Mohammed Al Marzooqi, director of school transportation at ET.

"This allows us to see if they are doing their jobs correctly. The supervisor must always be the first on board, so they must be the first to tag in."

Mr Al Marzooqi said the system could also be customised to parents' needs. "We can also send out texts if the bus is delayed due to fog or traffic, and another to inform them the bus is about to arrive so the student doesn't need to wait outside alone."

If the system is introduced, charges for government schools will be paid for by the Ministry of Education but private schools will meet the costs themselves.

Sahar Deeb, a financial controller at Al Ittihad private school, said it would look into applying the child- tracking system at both their Jumeirah and Al Mamzar campuses.

"This is a really excellent service for the school and the parents. I love the fact that it comes with regular training for the children. It is educational and has a message as well," she said.

The International School Transport Conference and Exhibition, which began on Sunday and ended yesterday, was held at Dubai World Trade Centre and attracted more than 3,000 visitors.