PETALING JAYA: Prema Ganapathy, 42, would like to send her four children back to school but school bus fares have been too much of a burden for her.
With a monthly income of RM1,200, it is a struggle for her to cover all her living expenses, such as rent and bills.
Speaking to FMT, she says her children wanted to go to school but she has been unable to send them for the past five months.
The children are forced to study their revision books on their own.
“I can’t pay the monthly school bus fares or pay for their school uniforms and equipment.”
She said she does not own a car and her only means of transport is her motorcycle.
With the school bus fares expected to increase at the start of next year, so too the burden of parents like Prema.
Preet Kaur, 40, who works at an IT call centre, has two children going to school.
She is also unhappy with the fare hike, especially at a time when she is struggling with the rising cost of living.
To reduce the cost of sending her children to school, she joins her neighbours in calling for e-hailing services like Uber or Grab to pick up and drop off children in school.
“Sometimes Uber and Grab offer promotions that only cost RM2.50 and sometimes the trips are free,” she said.
She said this is becoming the trend in her area in Sri Petaling.
The parents were commenting on a report that school bus fares would go up between RM10 and RM20 when the new school term starts in January.
Federation of Malaysian School Bus Operators Association president Mohd Rofik Mohd Yusof recently said he had received feedback from its 18,000 members that they could no longer continue absorbing escalating operating costs.
He claimed members had to absorb a 50-80% increase in prices of spare parts, mainly due to the weaker ringgit.
Klang MP Charles Santiago has also expressed his concern about the fare hike.
In a post on Facebook, Santiago said he had proposed to Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali to consider providing free transportation to school students struggling to pay their bus fares.
“Parents will be further burdened by this extra cost, on top of all the other price hikes we have to deal with.”
He also suggested that Selangor’s existing free Bas Selangorku be used to transport these school children.
Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) spokesman Meng Yew Choong said the bus fares are not for the government to decide since school bus fares were deregulated from the beginning of 2015.
Former President of the Federation of Malaysian School Bus Operators Association Amali Munif Rahmat said the fares were no longer controlled by SPAD. The fares are now left to market forces to determine.
He said the rising price of diesel and depreciation of the ringgit had cut into their income. He said 90% of the spare parts were imported.
He said the school bus fares will be decided by the bus operators after negotiations with parents. They are not fixed by any associations or groups.
He said a contributing factor to the extra cost was the presence of more than 100,000 illegal school bus operators nationwide against only 18,000 registered school buses.