Expensive and Unsafe
Gov't hunts consultants to consider feasibility of rural school-bus system
DESPITE calling for proposals to develop a rural school-bus system strategy and implementation plan, transport, works and housing minister, Dr Omar Davies, said there is no guarantee such a system will come on stream.
"There is a commitment in policy to have a system for rural students, but we don't have any data on the size of the problem," Davies told The Gleaner.
He added: "Some places have nothing, some places have an existing systems, but we have no data on the size so that's what the request is supposed to do. It is to put us in a position to have some data."
In September, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said in Parliament that Education Minister Ronald Thwaites and Davies had been tasked to consider the possibility of a national school-bus system. She cited huge expenses borne by rural students as well as safety concerns as compelling reasons to establish such a system.
On the weekend, the transport ministry placed an advertisement in The Sunday Gleaner calling for persons to submit proposals for a rural school-bus system and implementation plan.
The Reverend Garnett Roper, chairman of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), who headed a committee to consider various models governing a rural school-bus system told The Gleaner yesterday that the Government is not
minded to create a debt carrier. He said the service is being considered to "ensure safety, dignity, and cost-effectiveness of moving schoolchildren islandwide".
"The remit that was given by the minister did not allow us to set up something that will be a recurring cost on the Consolidated Fund. There is nothing that is being considered that will require an ongoing cost in the way the JUTC has cost the country. Financing it is a challenge and that is part of the work that is being done now," Roper said.
He noted that students in the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region, which is served by the JUTC, pay $20 for bus fare and noted that travelling for schoolchildren in rural areas is "very expensive and very unsafe for children."
Opposition spokesperson on education, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, who is among those in favour of the creation of a rural school-bus system, said yesterday that she was happy with the latest development.
Three months ago, Dalrymple-Philibert, the South Trelawny MP, said in the House of Representatives that many parents are experiencing difficulties finding money for transportation for children to school. She said in some instances, bus fare in rural areas amounts to $1,000 per day.
"If plans are afoot for a rural bus service for the children, I welcome it. Most of us as members of parliament for rural Jamaica welcome it because the cost for travelling for the children is not only astronomical but it's very unsafe," she said.
waste of resources
She, however, said the request for consultancy services was a waste of time and resources.
"My caution would be not to spend the money on having staff and doing papers on it because it is known that we need it and instead of wasting money we should utilise, as much as possible, the officers that we now have employed in the various ministries to get that work done," Dalrymple-Philibert said.
She added: "In a time when Jamaica is being critically challenged economically like the rest of the world, we must use what we now have rather than use out the funds to pay people to do a job when the funds are necessary for implementation."
Minister Davies had scrapped a proposed rural bus system saying the country cannot afford to pay for it.