Government is promising that come September when students return to the classroom from the summer holidays, the troubling transportation woes will be resolved.
While not going into details as to how the ease will come, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw hinted on Monday night during the inaugural education conference of the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools that an improved bus service for thousands of school children across the island was under way.
“My ministry will be working closely with the Transport Board to ensure that a timely bus service is provided for our students,” she revealed.
With the Transport Board experiencing a shortage of buses, several students of Grantley Adams Memorial School were left stranded earlier this year, some having to wait until well after dark to get a lift home, while others had knock on doors of homes near the school after 8 p.m. to ask for help in reaching their parents.
That was just one of many cases where students had to wait for several hours for a bus to school or home, as the authorities grappled with the shortage of road worthy vehicles. With the problem escalating, then Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley had announced that pupils would get to travel to and from school in the comfort of tour buses.
Lashley had said at the time the ministry had been approached by coach owners who were willing to assist with transporting the students.
“We first have to speak to the Ministry of Education about it, but the Ministry [of Transport] feels safer with the coaches. That is the preferred option,” Lashley said, as he explained that owners of public service vehicles had also been given a proposal “and are supposed to get back to us”.
There had been no progress since, hence Bradshaw declaration that Government’s efforts to resolve the problem were part of a bigger plan to tackle a number of challenges in the local education system.
“We are facing an increase in societal issues that threaten the work completed by our forefathers to create a strong community-based society. As administrators, educators and policymakers in education, it is incumbent on us to identify solutions to treat the root cause of some of the societal problems prevalent in our schools, which can aim to reduce the impact on the teaching and learning process,” the minister said.
“These initiatives are essential to address the changes we desire to see in our educational system. We have a responsibility to our nation and to the future of this country to ensure that all of us work together to bring an end to the problems plaguing the school system,” she said.
The minister also touched on the vexing issue of violence in schools, a problem that has prompted protests by teachers and has left policymakers scratching their heads in search of answers.
Bradshaw said the authorities intended to “convene a session of professionals” to address the growing problem.
“We have realized the challenges you are experiencing and have started the process of addressing some of them,” she said.
“My Government has proposed an increase in the number of guidance counsellors, safety officers and social workers across the school system. We will also address violence and bullying by facilitating anger management resolution classes,” she pledged.