School bus driver shortage in Istanbul spells troubles
Parents and students in Istanbul are having a hard time as some 10,000 school buses are now off the roads because the drivers of those vehicles, fearing that schools may be closed again because of COVID-19, have not returned to their jobs.
Millions of students are now back in schools after nearly an 18-month break, but there is a shortage of school buses in the country’s largest city by population.
There are several reasons behind this painful ordeal for parents and students.
Most of the drivers took other jobs when schools were closed due to the pandemic. Some of them completely changed career while others started to drive shuttles to commute companies’ employees.
Drivers do not want to take the risk as they fear that they might lose their jobs once again if schools close again because of COVID-19, even though top government officials have repeatedly said face-to-face education will continue.
“There are around 25,000 registered school buses, but 10,000 of them are currently not in service,” said Hamza Öztürk, the head of the association, representing the operators of those vehicles.
He noted that there are no problems at public schools, but private schools are being affected.
“Private schools are not treating drivers fairly. They collect the school bus fees in advance at the start of the academic year but keep most of the money to themselves. For instance, they get 13,000 Turkish Liras [$1,500] from parents but they offer 4,500 liras to drivers, who understandably reject to do the job under such a deal,” Öztürk said.
Parents are also complaining about the high fees they have to pay for those school buses. But drivers say there are extra costs involved for offering this service, such as hiring personnel to assist and monitor the students onboard.
The lowest school bus fee in Istanbul is around 420 liras per month. Fees vary depending on the distance between student’s home and the school.