Wednesday, April 17, 2024

EDITORIAL: Parents should monitor punctuality


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THE LATE ARRIVAL at school of significant numbers of students is not a new headache. But this vexing issue demands serious action by the Ministry of Education, the schools and, most definitely, parents.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones is clearly dissatisfied with the chronic problem of hundreds of students reaching school late every day, and its continuation in spite of Government’s six-year-old policy of free student travel on state-owned Transport Board buses must surely have added to his frustration.
The free service has undoubtedly been abused. However, the good that it has brought outweighs the negatives, so the suggestion from some unions that free rides be curtailed should not be entertained. The effectiveness of the system has to be assured through monitoring – not by another layer of school attendance officers or teachers, but by parents. Their active involvement in seeing that their children reach school on time is critical, but that is not a simple matter. Yes, parents have a duty to find solutions regardless of the circumstances. Unfortunately, many just cannot.
The service provided by the Transport Board is far from efficient. Acting principal of Grantley Adams Memorial School, Mr Dennis Browne, has pinpointed the challenges his school faces daily because of the poor service provided by the state-owned bus system. And he has provided evidence to support his position.
In most instances, students at Grantley Adams Memorial are trying to catch the early bus. They are simply encountering difficulties in getting from The City or other locations to St Joseph. This is the plight of many students of other schools across Barbados every school day.
Students who live outside of the school bus routes complain about the horrors of standing at a bus stop from very early in the morning and seeing the regular buses bypass them filled to capacity with students and regular commuters. Given the economic challenges facing the Transport Board, there will be no relief coming soon. A resolution involving the private sector is going to be critical since the Transport Board alone cannot provide the solution. This will mean talking to the private operators. It may be an opportunity for some to generate much needed new business opportunities.
Whatever the agreed solution, it must be free of the bad practices that caused the introduction of the free rides in the first place. It must also be driven by safety and timeliness. More importantly, our system of allocation to secondary schools, as well as the start and finish times, needs to be reviewed. This issue cannot be an emotional one – it requires imaginative thinking.


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