A total of 170 students have yet to be provided with a seat on a mini-bus as part of the government's free school transport scheme, Education Minister Evarist Bartolo confirmed on Friday afternoon. 

Fielding questions from the press after announcing that the free transport scheme will be carried out to the next scholastic year, Mr Bartolo confirmed the number on the waiting list. While acknowledging that each number meant one less student benefiting from the scheme, Mr Bartolo said that the government had managed to slash the waiting list figures, especially when compared to those at the start of the scholastic year.

When school doors opened in September, some 1,900 school children were still waiting for a mini-bus seat. 

At the time, the government had said that the waiting list was a result of more people than expected rushing to sign up for the scheme at the last minute as well as operators not having enough mini-buses in their fleets to cater for the increase in demand.

Asked by the Times of Malta whether any compensation would be offered to those parents who had not benefited from the scheme, Mr Bartolo said this was not currently being considered. 

"We are not considering that for the moment. Our commitment is to provide publically-funded transport," Mr Bartolo said. 

Asked whether, come the next scholastic year, the government was foreseeing a repetition of last year's waiting list situation, Mr Bartolo said that it would be "doing all [it] can to provide" the service. 

On the devices that were supposed to be attached to students' backpacks to allow parents to know their children had arrived safely, commonly referred to as FOBs, the Minister insisted this scheme was still at testing stage, with a pilot project currently underway expected to be extended. 

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