• Jonathan Edwards, The Malay Mail

Price hike of school bus fees unjustified, groups say

PETALING JAYA, Dec 5 — Imposing a price hike for school bus fares is unjustified and warrants immediate action from the government, according to several concerned groups.

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) president Kamarozaman Abdul Razak said the private sector, namely the bus companies, needed to show clemency.

“Perhaps the price of maintenance for the busses is extremely high or there is some other factor involved but a spike of RM20 per student is not justified.

“If it is a matter of high petrol prices, the government should implement a general subsidy on fuel or a specific subsidy for school related transport to keep a price hike at bay,” he said.

Earlier today, the Federation of Malaysian School Bus Operators Association president Mohd Rofik Mohd Yusof said the association had received feedback from its 18,000 members that they would be raising fares when the new school term starts on January 3 next year.

Rofik said members are putting up with between 50 per cent and 80 per cent increase in price of spare parts.

Kamarozaman added that it would be a case of misplaced priorities if students were unable to attend school over a lack of money to pay for transport.

“We have invested so much in educational infrastructure but what is the point if students are unable to attend school?” he asked.

“The companies renting out the busses should do their part and consider the costs borne by parents of school going children. If a family has five kids, this means they will have to fork out an additional RM100 per month.”

Kamarozaman said it was a shame for there to be free buses for tourists, while Malaysian students were being charged exorbitant prices in order to have access to school buses.

“Kuala Lumpur has a free bus scheme for students and thousands use the service daily. Surely a similar system could be worked for other parts of the country as well, especially impoverished or rural areas where people are especially hard pressed.”

KL City Hall had implemented a free shuttle bus service for students within the city limits early this year and the scheme benefits at least 6,500 students daily.

Sharing NUTP’s sentiment, Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin said higher transport was inevitable due to the weak ringgit and high fuel prices and urged state governments to intervene.

“I sympathise with the bus drivers who are buckling under high operational costs but every business in the country is suffering and needs to raise prices.

“We are very much in favour of state governments either providing free transport for school going children or to subsidise these costs,” he said.

Mak reasoned that most states, having declared a healthy budget balance, could easily prepare such a scheme as they were able to give their staff attractive bonuses.

“Take this is a social responsibility to ensure all children are not deprived of an education over transport costs by doing their part to lighten the burden of parents.”

Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) president Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said the problem was symptomatic of the wider economic conditions affecting the country.

“If we are to help parents of school going children in a meaningful way, these issues must be addressed otherwise it will simply turn into game of demanding subsidies for bus fares and uniforms and stationary and so on. It will never end.”

In the interim, Noor Azimah suggested better family planning would be more effective as a means of coping with the high cost of living and its spill over into a child’s education.

“Parents need to understand the burden of raising and educating a child and plan accordingly.

“This is a societal attitude that needs to change.”

The Malay Mail

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