Malaysia school buses get 'cool' makeover

Siti Aisyah ushering primary schoolchildren from SK Seksyen 27 (1) Shah Alam into the transformed schoolbus.

SHAH ALAM - On normal days, twin brothers Hazrin and Hazwan Nazir will look out for the ubiquitous amber-coloured bus which ferries them between their neighbourhood and school.

But the Year Two pupils nearly walked straight past the schoolbus at its usual pick-up point near the boys' home in Bandar Saujana Putra yesterday morning.

This was because their usual bus was now stylishly decked out in attractive designs and colours, featuring their favourite stars Mr Bean and Bruce Lee.

"It looks so beautiful and different now. It was all we could talk about with our friends in school the entire morning.

"Some of our friends who do not take the bus with us waited after school to see it for themselves," Hazrin said when met after the last school bell rang at SK Seksyen 27 (1) here.

Friends Siti Nur'Aina Mat Radi, nine, and Insyirah Hafizan, eight, were also eager to board the bus, and took a moment to show the vehicle's new look to their classmates.

Bus driver Siti Aisyah Ahmad, 31, said this was the most interesting look the bus has had since she began driving it seven years ago, and it drew the attention of passers-by.

The face-lift is an advertisement for Red Carpet, Malaysia's first all-star interactive wax museum, which is located in the prominent tourism centre i-City Shah Alam.

Such advertisements, and those of other products, can now go on about 15,000 school buses nationwide, thanks to School Buzz, a new advertising project under The Star Media Group to turn school buses into mobile billboards.

The project, created in partnership with the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), is offering ad space on school buses nationwide, opening up more opportunities for both businesses and bus operators.

Children boarding the bus were not the only ones who were excited, as some parents who gathered outside the school did a double take upon seeing the vehicle.

Parent G. Meenakshi, 34, said the advertisement was not only a good way for bus owners to make a side income, as it also had a small benefit for students.

"Often, children will be confused by the ordinary schoolbuses as all of them will be of the same colour, and they have to get close to see if it is their bus.

"Different advertisements on different schoolbuses will make it more convenient for students to remember which bus they have to take," she said.

Retired factory worker Chew Sin Yen, 62, who supported the schoolbus advertising, expressed relief that the advertisement was child-friendly.

"It looks pretty and gives bus owners extra income, and the bonus is that children like my grandson will not be exposed to unsuitable advertising," he said.

As a partner in the project, SPAD regulates the visuals for advertisements to ensure that they abide by advertising rules issued by the relevant authorities.

The School Buzz project is carried out in collaboration with the Federation of Malaysian School Bus Operators Associations.

Advertisers can choose from a series of packages ranging from small, medium to large buses, with a minimum of 10 buses for at least three months. Those who sign up before March 31 will enjoy a special six-month package with additional two months free of charge.