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In the Nation newspaper of January 25, the principal of the Grantley Adams Memorial Secondary School is reported to have made a statement with regard to “school bus woes” for students at his school: He said: “. . . some of these children leave home at 5 a.m. (to get to school), and if they cannot get a bus (to home) until 7 p.m., that is 14 hours. Then, they still have to go home, do homework and be in bed in time to wake up and prepare for a 5 o’clock trip next morning.”
There are a few critical questions that immediately surface. Why should any schoolchild in Barbados, including presumably 12-year-olds, have to leave home at 5 a.m. to get to a school for 8:45 a.m.? More than three hours to get to school? Seriously? Then to only get back home at or after 7 p.m.? Fully 14 hours away from home? Every day?
This does seem to be totally unnecessary and harmful pressure being placed on our students. What time and conditions are there, in the above daily routine, for these children to really study, think, reflect, properly do homework and get “engaged in their own learning”? In what frame of mind will they be when they arrive at school after three hours on the road?
Does our educational system not pay due attention to the well-known factors that influence learning and student performance, including providing a safe, non-stressful and enabling learning environment that is cognitively stimulating? How can our young students develop critical-thinking skills under the above conditions?
The above routine and conditions may, in educational circles, be classified as being akin to an “anti-learning” environment for our young children, and thus be shortchanging them in the process. “Access to learning is vastly different from mere access to a school.”
A further important question relates to how prevalent is this problem. How many schools/students are being disadvantaged by such conditions/challenges? Has any research been done on it? Given the very high volume of “bussing” or transporting students all over the island – which really has nothing at all to do with “education” as such – one suspects that significant numbers of students may be impacted and at risk.
But yet we lament that our students’ school performance is not what we expect. Then we are surprised when they appear frustrated, turned off and unmotivated, and turn to mischievous acts and behaviours for stimulation and attention.
If the above routines as outlined by the school principal are correct and verifiable, then, as one of the affected students is reported to have succinctly said about the situation, “ridiculous is an understatement”.
– ANTHONY D. GRIFFITH