x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

School-bus camera law is closer to realisation

A proposal to make closed-circuit television cameras mandatory for schools in the Emirates is moving closer to becoming law.

A proposal to make closed-circuit television cameras mandatory for schools in the Emirates is moving closer to becoming law.
A proposal to make closed-circuit television cameras mandatory for schools in the Emirates is moving closer to becoming law.

DUBAI // A proposal to make closed-circuit television cameras mandatory for schools in the Emirates is moving closer to becoming law.

The concept has been presented to the committee that is overseeing a draft law to regulate monitoring systems in private organisations.

The Minister of Interior Sheikh Saif bin Zayed ordered a specialised committee to develop the legislation last year.

Lt Col Faisal al Shamari, the rapporteur of the Higher Committee for Protection of Children, said his organisation has been coordinating with the legal committee.

"We have submitted our recommendations for security monitoring [...] with the aim to prevent crimes against children," Lt Col al Shamari said.

It was unclear, he said, whether the law, if passed, would specify that cameras and other security monitoring technologies must be placed on school buses, as well as on school premises.

Referring to the rape of a four-year-old Indian girl on a school bus that came to light last week, Lt Col al Shamari said: "The issue of having cameras on buses reappears every time there are cases like this one. We at the committee support the idea."

Since the school bus rape case surfaced, there has been much confusion about who should be responsible for making sure it doesn't happen again.

Contacted for comment about what will be done to secure buses in the future, several concerned authorities declined to comment, or said other departments are responsible for it.

Essa al Dossari, chief executive of the Public Transport Agency, a division of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), said safety measures, like GPS tracking and closed-circuit television cameras, were currently optional. Closed-circuit cameras transport a signal to a specific place, on a limited set of monitors.

"We encourage schools to adopt such measure," he said, "but in the terms of cameras, they can be tampered with and do not necessarily ensure protection of children."

Mr al Dossari also said that the RTA does not regulate the staff hired to work with students on the bus.

"This is not the scope of our work," he said. "The [Public Transport Authority]is responsible for the technical aspects and safety measures, including the seat belts, colour of the buses and issuing permits."

The RTA does issue licences to school bus drivers, but is not responsible for carrying out additional security checks.

"Right now, the drivers who work in public schools go through such checks, but this may not be the case with private providers," Mr al Dossari said.

Most schools outsource their transport needs to bus services. Schools are responsible for hiring attendants to monitor students in the bus. Currently, education authorities are not responsible for monitoring non-academic staff who work with the schools.

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority, which oversees private schools in Dubai, yesterday declined to comment on the matter.

Lt Col al Shamari was confident that the proposed law would end bickering between authorities.

"If or when such a law is passed, it will end any dispute over whose role and responsibility it is to oversee security installation," he said.

A pilot project in a UAE school will soon assess the effectiveness of implementing cameras.

According to Lt Col al Shamari, the draft version of the new law is in its final stages, and will soon be submitted to the concerned authorities for review.

Indian officials say they are taking steps to prevent incidents like the rape of the four-year-old girl.

wissa@thenational.ae

aahmed@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Ramola Talwar Badam