JEFF BROOMES: PSV subculture hurting our kids
THE RECENT PUBLIC SERVICE VEHICLE ACCIDENT that resulted in multiple injuries especially to schoolchildren and, in at least one case, serious injury, has solicited many comments, criticisms and omniscient claims.
Although I will refrain from any comment on this specific situation, choosing to leave all issues in the capable hands of the Royal Barbados Police Force, I will focus on the bigger picture inclusive of the weaknesses in our varied structures that have led to this incident and will almost certainly lead to a few more.
Is there an identifiable subculture that pervades this mode of transportation? Can specific actions be taken to address or even destroy this culture if it exists? Are there school factors that impact negatively thereby driving young students into this area?
Can specific action be taken at the individual school, the collective school leaders or the education policy level to correct or even save our children from this veritable grease pole that they have chosen to climb? This is where we need to direct our attention. Stay away from the easy criticism and seek the impactful actions that are demanded.
Subcultures don’t develop by happenstance. There is always some magnetic attraction and, as the word culture suggests, the music, the dress, the food and the language are significant contributors to the distinctive and detracting pull of the minibus/van culture from which schoolchildren seem not to be able to pull away.
For anyone who has ever driven in one of these privately owned public sector vehicles, one of the things that stand out most is the loud, obnoxious and even lewd music that pollutes the ears.
These high decibels and compromising lyrics have children heading to school in the mornings and home on the evenings in a state approaching fever pitch. This condition is in conflict with what is necessary for a positive learning environment and cannot be a base for study and good family interaction and values.
I once had the unfortunate experience a few years ago of driving behind one such vehicle and observing some of my students dancing, rocking and beating on the roof of the vehicle.
I was enraged and thankfully was able to engage the services of a cyclist from the Royal Barbados Police Force to stop the vehicle. At this point I ordered all of my students out of this minibus that was also being driven quite recklessly and at an unacceptably high speed.
I saw this as an attempt to avoid a possible tragedy. I support every decision to eliminate music from these vehicles. The impact on young impressionable minds is just too negative.
I am also appalled at the way most of the persons working on these vehicles are allowed to dress. From time to time we hear of proposals for one dress code or the other to bring drivers and conductors in line with their publicly employed counterparts, but all to no avail.
Standards and regulations will not hurt the many good drivers but will help prevent their names from being tarnished as assessments are made with a single brush.
Emanating from the incident with the children on the minibus, I wrote a proposal to the ministers of education and transport that sought to address this pressing issue. In my submission, I spoke to the need for a period of training for all prospective public service vehicle workers before they are licensed to operate in this area. I also spoke to the absolute need for an acceptable dress code. My recommendation also requested that there should be monitors on the street to control the functioning of these vehicles and structures for serious follow-up action, inclusive of suspension of the ability to work in this area for a period of time.
These suggestions are still, in my view, quite necessary and workable. I also recommend that action should be taken at the school level to address students who are late because of their procrastination simply to be in one such vehicle or the other. Some principals are doing this, but it should be more widespread. They should get the support of their superiors and not the condemnation that too often comes when one action or the other is taken.
Finally, I firmly believe that schoolchildren should be debarred from travelling on these vehicles.
If this is not practical because of legal considerations, then schoolchildren in uniform for whom there is no fare on the state-owned buses and who choose to use the minibuses/vans should be asked to pay twice that as for adults. We must take hard and strategic decisions to save our children.
Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also served as a vice president of the BCA and director of the WICB. Email: [email protected]