Not so fast!
That was how Member of Parliament for St Thomas Cynthia Forde has responded to suggestions by some public service vehicle (PSV) operators that students should be banned from their vehicles.
Earlier this week some operators called on Government to impose a ban of students travelling on privately run PSVs following an altercation between three students from a rural secondary school and a conductor, which resulted in the conductor sustaining injuries to both arms.
However, Forde called for cooler heads to prevail, suggesting instead that all sides meet to explore ways to end violence by students using the public transportation system.
“I don’t think [a ban] is the way you deal with it. I know that there are challenges with the PSVs. There have been for years and we have been making calls to make sure that kind of violent set of incidents would cease. But a proper system must be put place, not only from the schools level, but from the Transport Authority. And I think that’s where a lot of the problems are coming [from]. I believe that proper investigation needs to take place. And you can’t just come overnight and make that kind of radical expression without giving it proper investigation and thought,” Forde said, stressing that the ministries of education and transport and works and the representatives of the PSVs should meet to find a solution.
The Opposition Barbados Labour Party legislator also addressed the incident, even as she stayed clear of apportioning blame.
She said whoever was found to be at fault should be punished.
“Those three students, if what I heard is true, and they’re wrong, they should be brought to justice. If the conductor is wrong then he should be brought to justice so that we can see no person in the whole sector would be given a chance to get off scot-free when they are the perpetrators of violence on what we always knew to be a decent transportation system,” Forde said.
In the meantime, she strongly recommended that the Ministry of Education should seriously consider enforcing the “power to search” students in order to intercept weapons being taken to school by students.
At the same time, she appealed to parents and communities to play their part to help get the pupils on the straight and narrow.
“It would be an interesting thing if the Ministry of Education would start to look seriously at pursuing the power to search aspect of the legislation because a lot of the children would have been taking to school those weapons . . . on a regular basis. But I would encourage principals and members of staff to enforce the power to search legislation because unless you have a delegation of senior staff searching the children’s bags and making sure they don’t bring in any weapons or any contraband, it’s going to get worse,” Forde said.
“I feel that more has to be done and I want to encourage parents as well, in the same way that our parents dug into our bags when we were leaving home and when we came back from school, unless parents . . . and others in the communities work with our children, we are not going to get any better,” she added.
President of the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO) Morris Lee this week said violence amongst the school children was “a real issue” and he called on all interested parties to “look at addressing the problem from more than one point”.
Lee also recently admitted that some PSV operators were encouraging violence by the students by the music they play, an Forde said was also a concern.
“I believe that some of them, especially on the ZRs, they are the ones that encourage that kind of behaviour, not perhaps deliberately so, but the noise and the music and the way they are driving the vehicles and the amount of children they carry at one time. That too adds to the confrontation,’ Forde said.
However, Forde added: “I believe there is hope, but I’m not talking about any change in Government or anything like that. I’m talking about an entire society and a whole village taking the responsibility to raise one child.
“If everybody comes together and plays his or her part we can do it differently. We have been able to achieve over the years, that aspect of living in unity and sharing and caring like we have always had. We can fix it if we do it together as a people.”