Angelo Laurence, Gleaner Writer
The call for students to attend schools closest to their homes is once again a topical issue in the parish. From as far back as 2000, Member of Parliament for South Manchester and Speaker of the House Michael Peart has been advocating that students not be forced to travel 10 to 15 miles outside their communities while there are schools nearer to their homes.
Peart told The Gleaner that it is "total madness" to have a child travel from Cross Keys in south Manchester to Christiana - 15 or more miles away - to attend school, passing several other schools in the process, including the Cross Keys High School in their own district. He said, "I have been talking about this for years but no one is listening."
Peart pointed out that what makes the situation more illogical is that the reverse is taking place. He said as MP for South Manchester, he was aware of children travelling from Greenvale in Mandeville, where there are at least five high schools near to their homes, to Winston Jones and Cross Keys High schools in south Manchester.
unnecessary financial burden
Peart said this not only puts the students at risk, but creates an unnecessary financial burden on parents to find taxi and bus fare. The MP partially blames this practice for the death of four Holmwood students in the recent bus accident on the Mandeville to Christiana main road on September 25. Two of the students, Tameka Peart of Broad Leaf district and Ockeem Gordon of Alligator Pond, resided in his south Manchester constituency although they attended Holmwood High School in northeast Manchester.
An angry Peart said if the powers that be in the Ministry of Education over the years gave the issue the deserved attention, maybe those students would be alive today.
Parents who spoke on the matter agreed with Peart. One parent of Greenvale district in Mandeville, Andrea Wang, termed the practice nothing short of "economic and social discrimination". She said her nephew travels from Greenvale in Mandeville to Cross Keys in south Manchester. Her nephew has to leave home by 5:30 a.m. and return as late as 8 p.m., sometimes, leaving him extremely tired.
Another parent, who asked not to be named, said she could only afford to send her child to school in south Manchester two or three days per week as she could not afford the three different taxi fares needed each day in order for him to reach school and return home. She contended that if he were going to school in nearby Mandeville, she would only need to find one taxi fare, or he could walk to school. She said she was convinced it was because he was from the poor community of Greenvale why he had not been placed in one of the highly respected high schools in Mandeville, one, within walking distance of his home.