Letters to the Editor

Renewed call for rural school bus system

Thursday, May 16, 2019

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Dear Editor,

The call for safe and adequate transportation for our rural schools is deepening and we can no longer ignore it. For many years principals and school administrators have lamented the situation which exists for commuting students in remote and isolated areas of Jamaica. The manner in which our students have to travel to get to school is untenable and we should not wait on unfortunate incidents to necessitate a proper and planned approach to getting them safely to school and back home.

In the absence of a regulated system of transportation, anything goes. The practice of 'lapping up', overloading taxis, speeding and recklessness, lewd music and vulgarity, and the infiltration of robot taxis are pervading the landscape. The very fact that the traffic is so heavy shows want of a school bus system, and so the operators capitalise on it to the detriment of the students.

To a large extent, young people don't know what is best for them and, in the face of peer pressure, hype, glamour, and youthful exuberance, may make bad decisions. But as their guardians, parents and responsible leaders we must protect them. Only what we do with a long-lasting and futuristic outcome really matters. Some of these very children will be elevated to high leadership positions and will lead this country tomorrow, so let us do our best for a sustainable future so that they may build on our legacy.

The recent motor vehicle crash involving our students is a warning sign and an indication of our plight in the rural communities of north Clarendon (Frankfield and its adjoining communities). But this even extends to other parishes as the Edwin Allen High School serves the four contiguous parishes of Clarendon, Manchester, Trelawny, and St Ann. A rural bus system would be far-reaching and very effective. Though costly, this should not deter a good venture which would benefit our over 2,000 students, most of whom travel from outside of Frankfield.

I want to continue to appeal to the relevant authority and corporate Jamaica for a partnership in making a rural school bus system a reality. Our international partners may also take an interest. Apart from it being a lucrative business venture for all parties, there are great benefits to be derived for our students and schools in general.

There is an anticipation that, with the bus system in place, there will be noticeably more order and discipline among commuting students; an obvious reduction in the number of students reporting to school late; lower accident rate is guaranteed; greater security is also guaranteed as the buses would drive at a lower speed; and parents would have more peace of mind.

I am willing to sit with the various stakeholders for a concerted, strategic approach to developing and regulating how our students travel. For preliminary considerations, the implementation of such a bus system could be done in phases where a pilot be conducted in four parishes, two buses each, covering known affected areas (ie heavily trafficked and inadequate transport). There would certainly be established schedules of locations, as well as arrival and departure times. Schools should put mechanisms in place to educate students on how to behave while travelling on public transportation. Schools could incentivise good behaviour on the buses and introduce a merit and demerit system.

The fine details will have to be ironed out in other fora, but this urgent need cannot be overstated.

The old adage, 'where there's a will, there's a way', comes to mind.

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