x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Student dropout rares rise after transport costs soar

Bus prices rise as much as 241% for Dubai Women's College students, forcing some to abandon college.

DUBAI // Some students are abandoning their studies at a government college after a bus company increased its fares by as much as 241 per cent, the school says. It says the students can no longer afford to attend classes at Dubai Women's College following the decision by the company, Emirates Transport, to raise its prices before the term started last Sunday. Hundreds of other students are believed to struggling for transport.

Emirates Transport responded that it was forced to raise its fares because of a decline in the number of students attending the college. The school has 2,300 students and is one of the federal Higher Colleges of Technology. The monthly cost of transport from Deira to the college has been raised 241 per cent, to Dh920 from Dh270. Travel from Dubai rose from Dh290 to Dh960. From Umm Al Quwain, the fare rose from Dh400 to Dh1,200.

Dr Howard Reed, the director of the college, said the increases had affected the college "dramatically". "These are serious increases and families just cannot deal with this," he said. "We have had several new students drop out of the college." On Wednesday evening, Dr Reed said, he signed withdrawal forms for half a dozen students. Absenteeism reached 30 per cent, which he said was "not acceptable".

He has asked the Minister of Education, Dr Hanif Hassan, to help solve the problem, possibly by including the college's bus services in a wider agreement over transport. Khulood Hassan, 19, who lives in Umm al Quwain and is studying health science, said the fare increase was "too much". "We cannot afford Dh1,200 every month. At this college, 520 girls go by bus. All the girls cannot afford this high price," she said.

"I cannot come every day. Sometimes [I come] with my father, but my father cannot take me every day." Mohammed al Jarman, chief executive of Emirates Transport, said the problem stemmed from the fact that the company did not have a contract with the college. The bus company depends on money paid by students, and falling numbers forced the increases, he said. "Every year we're entering losses because of the low number of transported students," he said.

"Sometimes we're operating a bus with nine or 10 students. If it's 30 students, then the bus average rate would be different. We have to recover the expenses." Rising salaries and fuel prices have also pushed fares up, Mr Jarman said. dbardsley@thenational.ae