Worried parents speak to Doha Modern Indian School officials yesterday. RIGHT: Students of DMIS, who were stranded at the school following a flash strike by school bus drivers, going home with their parents yesterday. (Salim Matramkot)
DOHA: Hundreds of students of three prominent private schools here were stranded for hours yesterday after bus drivers transporting them went on a flash strike demanding pay hike.
The incident, the first of its kind in the country, led to chaotic scenes at the Doha Modern Indian School, the Cambridge School Doha and the Cambridge International School for Girls yesterday afternoon. All the three schools are owned by the Doha-based Taleb Group.
The first two schools are located in Abu Hamour and the third in Al Hilal.
The school management has filed a complaint with the police against the striking drivers. The police are investigating the incident, an official of the Taleb Group told this daily last evening.
About 120 bus drivers were involved in the strike, it has been learnt. They were employed by
Al Watan International Trading and Contracting Company, a subsidiary of the Taleb Group.
The school management has informed the parents to arrange transport for their children on their own “until the issue is sorted out.” The schools together have more than 4,000 students on their rolls and a majority of them were using school transport. The drivers brought the children to the school in the morning and declared a flash strike in the afternoon, refusing to ferry the children back home.
Caught in a messy situation, the school management sent text messages to the parents asking them to come and take the children home. However, many parents said yesterday they had received the message very late.
As children didn’t reach home, the panicked parents tried to call the school but many failed to get through because the telephones jammed. Many said they came to know about the situation from other parents.
“We learnt about the strike from another parent and rushed to bring our children home. The message which was sent by the school reached us after 4pm while the school closed at 1pm,” said a mother of two girls studying at the DMIS.
Many children were stranded at the school for two to three hours, because the parents were either not informed on time or they failed to make alternative arrangements within the short time. Some of the parents work in places like Dukhan, far away from Doha.
“We understand it was an unexpected situation and the school management had little control over it. But there should have been an effective method to inform parents, like the class teacher calling parents,” said a parent staying in the Corniche area.
Some parents also complained that their children starved until 3.30pm and the school management took steps to provide them with some snacks only after parents created a ruckus.
“We know that the school and the company that has provided the drivers are under the same management. I wonder why the school couldn’t anticipate the situation and take precautionary measures. At least they should have informed the parents earlier,” said another parent.
A senior official of the Doha Modern Indian School said that the school came to know about the strike only by noon yesterday and took all possible steps to handle the situation.
“The situation arose due to a problem between the drivers and their company. The school learnt about it only at noon and we called an emergency staff meeting, advised teachers to handle the situation and even arranged some food for children,” said DMIS principal Jaigopal Jindal.
He admitted that there was a delay in informing parents because “the text messages were sent in bulk.” The Taleb Group official said that the company was awaiting outcome of the police investigation to decide on future transport plans.
“The DMIS is closed tomorrow (Monday) while the other two schools are functioning. We have informed parents to make alternative transport arrangements until a decision is taken,” said the official..
The protesting drivers say that their salaries had not been raised for the past five years.
“Most of the drivers are getting about QR1,300 per month and we have been asking for a hike for more than five years,” said an Asian driver.