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EDITORIAL: Save our kids from public transport threats


BARBADOS NATION

EDITORIAL: Save our kids from public transport threats

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JUST A FEW WEEKS ago as the first term of the 2016-17 academic year drew to a close, principal of the Coleridge and Parry School, Vincent Fergusson, sounded a warning we are reasonably certain would be echoed by every secondary school head in this country.

While addressing guests at the school’s speech day, Fergusson expressed serious concern about a number of challenges facing the island’s school population, identifying a poor public transport system as high on the list.

He also made the point that when children arrive at school late it does not matter whether or not they have a legitimate excuse — they are still disadvantaged by the fact that they missed valuable teaching/learning time.

“There are several challenges we face as facilitators of education in this country. . . ,” Fergusson said.

“Hats off to our teachers as we continue to experience serious problems with student tardiness, some of their own doing and in recent times, some created by the transport system. . . . If a student misses any time from school, that student is at an immediate disadvantage even though the circumstance may be unavoidable. Parents, make every effort and ensure your wards are on time for school and classes.”

He added: “Many of our students display loutish behaviour, disregarding the authority figure, using profanities at will, exercising in games of chanceetc. . . .”

In his address the veteran educator called for a greater societal involvement in the inculcating of values in minors, noting the task could not be left entirely to teachers. We agree, and suggest to Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley that he implores his Cabinet colleagues to ensure that the Transport Board is provided with the wherewithal to carry outits mandate.

We are satisfied that it is not just a matter of an inadequate number of buses contributing to the lateness of children. When our students are on the streets unsupervised as late as 10 a.m. many of them will engage in unwholesome activities that will be transported to the school campus eventually. We suspect that situation must be even more worrisome in the evening when students are still struggling to get home after sunset.

These unwholesome activities must be contributing to the “loutish” behaviour of which the principal spoke.

In just over a week schools will reopen for a new term, but it will also be the start of a new year and there has to be some resolve on the part of the Government to tackle this problem. It cannot be about talk alone. Our children are our future, and the more of them we lose to antisocial behaviour the more challenging will be that future.

In fact, we call on Minister of Education Ronald Jones to tackle his MTW counterpart with the same gusto he has been attaching to his interaction with the teachers unions, and at the same time give the country a national perspective on how this woefully poor bus service being presided over by his Government is impacting the education sector for which he is directly responsible.

We can extrapolate from what the Coleridge and Parry principal has said, but we believe the education minister must be in a far better position to offer the country a definitive picture.

We cannot reasonably hold our educators responsible when our children fail to perform in schools when we stack them up against a system that works to undo whatever initiatives they may put in place.

We sincerely hope that 2017 will bring a different approach to correcting public transport woes, particular as they relate to our schoolchildren.

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