Sun | Aug 20, 2017

St Thomas schools desperately anticipating proposed bus system

Published:Monday | July 10, 2017 | 7:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Students at Paul Bogle High, who have serious issues with transportation getting to and from school, share a moment with vice principal at the school, Winston Downie (third left). They are (from left) Demar Copeland, who lives in Rowlandsfield; Kwame Thompson, who lives in Hectors River, Portland; Gaveana McLean, who lives in Trinityville:, Kerissa Sewell, who lives in Sunning Hill, and Sharrece Reeves, who lives in Bath.
Students from Paul Bogle High disembarking from transportation at the school gate recently.
Students from Paul Bogle High disembarking from transportation at the school gate recently.
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Winston Downie, vice-principal at Paul Bogle High School, expects that when students return from the summer break in September, a reliable school-bus system will be rolled out to ease the daily burden of accessing transportation.

Downie was speaking as he joined several of his students in an interview with The Gleaner recently, to discuss the challenges that students in rural areas encounter daily to and from school.

The vice-principal indicated that in addition to his school, the Robert Lightbourne High School and the Seaforth High school will benefit from the venture, which is being pioneered by the School District Association out of the Ministry of Education.

"There is a bus system in the pipeline. We are still in the building process and I am sure that for September 2017, that bus system will come on board," he said.

Kerissa Sewell, a second-form student at the Paul Bogle High School, is desperately hoping that the proposed bus system will be realised. The resident of Sunning Hill in the parish said that it is a daily struggle to access convenient modes of transportation.

"I have it rough, especially when the rain falls; because of the hill, the stones roll down and fall in the road, and if it nuh move, you can't come to school. Generally, sometimes when I get to school is 9:30 (a.m.), and wi come out from 6 o'clock. I never reach to school early yet. In the evenings is also very difficult because I'm also a member of the track and field team."

 

Scary to travel

 

Sharrece Reeves, who is from Bath in the parish, shared a similar story, noting that the criminal incidents currently plaguing Jamaica has made it more scary to travel.

"It costs me $300 a day for taxi fare. I have to take a taxi from Bath [to] go to Port Morant, from there to Morant Bay, and from there to school. Sometimes when me reach is break time, which mean seh mi miss three sessions already. Not to mention evening time, it is so difficult," she said.

Vice-Principal Winston Downie said it has been difficult to see the hurdles that the children have had to surmount over the years, indicating that it has resulted in serious attendance and productivity issues at the institution. He said, however, that the staff tried as best as possible to facilitate every student.

"We really try to accommodate them and see how best we can put programmes in place to assist them. We have met with the teachers to let them know that even if the students come late, they are not to be outside of class. There is a serious transportation problem which is beyond their control," he said.

"We have student from Rowlandsfield, Bath, Johnson Mountain, Amity Hall, Portland, Hampton Court, Golden Grove. We have students from as far as Hagley Gap and they have to get up in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes have to walk for miles before they get to the nearest pickup point. We even go as far as 11 Miles in Kingston, but the bus system in Kingston is a little bit more structured, so that route is not too difficult."