Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer
The company that manages the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre has confirmed that students continue to cause a security problem at the facility, though not at the levels that previously raised concerns.
In its 2013 annual report tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, the Port Authority Management Services Limited (PAMS), said there were no major disturbances or violent incidents during the 2012-2013 period under review.
"However, students continue to be a challenge to the security forces and the contracted security. Indiscipline displayed by students in the centre, although improved over the five years of operation, is still at a level that is unacceptable," PAMS said.
In the meantime, a representative of the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) has raised concerns about what she described as the mistreatment of students at the transport centre, located in St Andrew.
RESPECT STUDENTS' RIGHTS
Speaking with The Gleaner following a stakeholders' meeting hosted by the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ) on Tuesday night, the OCA representative said reports of mistreatment of children have been ongoing.
"We have had several reports of students being mistreated by police officers at the transport centre and, while I know that they are working under stressful conditions, we still have to make sure that the rights of our students are respected," said the representative, who asked not to be named.
"If you are going to address a 16-year-old, saying 'Eh, bwoi, weh u a go?', a child that age is going to react, and that is where the problem comes in, and these are the kinds of complaints we have been receiving."
The OCA representative added, however, that the office was on board with any decision to enforce discipline, "but it would be remiss [of us] if we didn't issue a word of caution to those involved, because the extent of the mistreatment is alarming".
Said the representative: "Most of the reports we have received are of mistreatment towards boys. They are treated like thugs and robbers and girls have also complained. As the discussions continue, I want to stress the importance of persons being properly trained."
Everton Hannam, head of the NPTAJ, which called Tuesday's meeting after recent reports of bad behaviour at the transport centre, sought to reassure the public that the issues would be dealt with urgently, noting that a collaborative effort was required to solve the problem.
"We have also had complaints from several other bus parks in Kingston and St Catherine, so this is something widespread, which we will be tackling head-on," Hannam said.
"It is unfortunate that some of our boys, especially, have had such encounters with the police officers, but at the same time, discipline must be enforced and the officers are working hard, so it all boils down to everybody doing their part."