New school bus causing  controversy in North Leeward
March 27, 2009
New school bus causing controversy in North Leeward

Now that the long awaited school bus, which transports students between North Leeward and Kingstown, has arrived, controversy is brewing over the method used to choose students to travel on the bus.{{more}}

Some students told Searchlight that as they boarded the bus in Kingstown on Tuesday afternoon to travel to their homes, the driver asked them their names and checked the names off against a list.

Describing the system as unfair, some residents of North Leeward opined that admission should be on a first come, first served basis.

However, Parliamentary Representative for North Leeward Dr. Jerrol Thompson disagrees and explained why that system will not work. He said that a survey carried out recently revealed that approximately 140 students from the North Leeward area travel to Kingstown every day.

“If we use a first come, first served basis, there will be a mad rush and only the bigger, stronger children will get on,” Dr. Thompson said. He also pointed out that on mornings, the bus will fill up with children from whichever village the bus starts its journey from. “That would make it a village bus, rather than a North Leeward bus,” the representative said.

Additionally, Thompson said, “Children must have some certainty on a daily basis, how they will get to and from school…. A first come, first served basis will mean that different children will travel on the bus every day.”

Thompson, who is serving his second term as parliamentary representative for the area, said that the forty or so children who travel on the school bus were chosen based on need. He said Community Development Officers, Teachers and Welfare Officers in the different villages of his constituency provided names of the children they assessed to be in greatest need.

He said at present, there are eight students from Fitzhughes, eight from Chateaubelair, one from Petit Bordel, six from Rose Bank, two from Troumaca, nine from Rose Hall and nine from Spring Village who travel on the bus, which began plying its route only a few days ago.

Other students in the area pay monthly fees to private bus owners to travel, and many of them have continued with their usual arrangement. In fact, Thompson said that some of the students who had been offered places on the bus, declined, preferring to continue to travel privately.

Thompson also refuted charges that only children of supporters of the Unity Labour Party were chosen to travel on the bus. “There are also people who are NDP supporters who travel on the bus,” he said.

Students using the school bus are charged a return fare of five dollars daily.