As Government announced over the weekend that it would be taking a zero-tolerance approach to violence in schools, one private sector association has committed to stamping out the scourge during the commute to and from schools.
However, president of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport, Roy Raphael told Barbados TODAY that this was an undertaking too large for them to handle alone and they are therefore urging Government to consider issuing special licences to responsible private owners and operators to transport school children.
“For Government to eliminate some of the issues of school violence as it relates to public transport, Government will seriously have to look at introducing private school bus services. I believe that Government needs to give out a special class of licences for those who want provide this service,” Raphael said.
Acknowledging that the cramped quarters shared by students from varying schools and the loud music on public service vehicles (PSVs), create conditions for deviance, Raphael believes that a private school bus system, which should be paid through the same channels as the Transport Board, would allow for a safer and more orderly commute for students.
“I see this reducing school violence on public transport because right now a lot of these buses pick up children from various schools and sometimes students of these schools have a beef with each other. So where violent activity or bullying is concerned some children may get on the bus with their friends and create issues along the route. Now with a private school bus service, the owner or the driver will become familiar with all the children on his assigned route, said Raphael, who is also calling for security officers to be assigned to buses.
In addition to curbing violence on buses, the AOPT president is of the view that the proposed measure would have the added benefit of easing some of the pressure on the state-owned Transport Board, which despite a chronic bus shortage, is required to operate a daily school bus service.
“This would also eliminate the number of Transport Board buses that would have to go to these schools on a daily basis, putting strain on the service. I want to make it clear that I am not advocating that minibus operators should get these licences, but it should be an option open to persons capable and willing to move our nation’s children safely,” he said.
This morning Raphael gave the assurance that his association will do what it can to effect change.
“We are going to spend some time going into the schools with the assistance of the Ministry of Education to educate students on the importance of transport. We are going to be conducting seminars for our drivers, sensitizing them on the type of music that they are playing and how it could incite violence. So, we will encourage both drivers and students to do the right things whilst they are on the buses. My association condones no violence among school children, so that everybody can be safe and we are going to start with our own,” he stressed.