Alaa Eldin Aly Hassan, a school bus driver has transported countless students to schools in Dubai and Sharjah for the last three decades.
He has not only safely transported generations of students but has also become an integral part of their lives. “The first day of back to school, students’ bus journeys began with children sharing their holiday experiences, bonding as they meet after the two-month gap, and distributing toffees and juices. But now students are aware of their friend’s whereabouts through social media and mobile phones. I see far less excitement to share their holiday adventures,” said Hassan.
“The first week of back-to-school for students had them excited in those days, and they would wait for school to reopen. Children were bored during summer vacation as there were no gadgets and the only time they had outings was during the availability of parents, unlike now,” said Hassan.
Arriving in UAE
With an airfare of 500 Egyptian pounds, which was nearly Dh60 back then, Hassan arrived in the UAE on the 8th of October, 1986.
Like many newcomers, he embarked on a series of odd jobs and worked as a typewriter, a role in which he worked for a year. “I had just completed my compulsory army service for three years. I wanted a job to settle myself, and worked at a couple of places. The first time I was behind the wheel of a bus was in 1990,” said Hassan.
Obtaining a driver’s license
Hassan’s connection with the road in the UAE grew in 1989 when he obtained his first car driver's license in Sharjah. “There were no driving schools during that time. We had to obtain driving skills from a private instructor,” said Hassan.
He enjoyed driving on UAE roads and was constantly looking out for jobs in driving, until he read a poster hiring school drivers. “I applied for it and was told to get a school bus driving license, to which I applied for,” said Hassan.
“I felt that the school driver’s job would get me settled. I failed the driving test twice. I must have committed some mistakes. Back then, the roads were narrower and less congested, but the driving tests were no less difficult as compared to now,” said Hassan.
School bus driver journey
Once he got his heavy vehicle driving license, he was successful in securing a job as a school bus driver. His day began at dawn, at 5 am, to ensure the safe transport of schoolchildren. “By 6.45 am, I wrapped up my first trip and started the next trip by 7am which finished at 7.45 am."
Even in the summer, the absence of air conditioning on the buses didn't make much of a difference. “As the population grew, more cars were seen on roads and the exhausts had increased the temperature. But the authorities have provided air conditioning everywhere, and the temperature doesn’t affect us now as well,” said Hassan.
From 1990, Hassan was the driver for students of Al Falah School in Qusais, 2nd December School in Al Tawar 1, and Rashidiya School for nearly 30 years. Now, he has been driving students of Al Wasit School and Darari School, both in Sharjah, for the last three years.
Hassan is still going strong after all these years. The relationships that he established with the students and his joy for his work keep him going. “Every day is a new experience, and I believe I have been a good influence on these young children. I want to be here for them as long as I can.”
He said that many children who commuted on the bus are holding high positions at government organisations. “While I was driving my car, a policeman stopped me. Initially, I felt I violated traffic rules and I would be fined. But he asked me if I was a school bus driver. He was one among many children on my bus in the mid-1990s. I was overjoyed. He was delighted to meet see me after ages,” said Hassan.
Hassan has two sons and a daughter who are in his hometown of Alexandria pursuing higher education. “Working here in the UAE, I was able to afford my own house back in my hometown, provide a good education for my children, and a better lifestyle.”
He believes that UAE is the best place to live and settle in. “Once my children are done with their education, I would want them to work here.”
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