Fri | Oct 22, 2021

JTA calls for private investors, others to finance school buses

Published:Wednesday | September 1, 2021 | 12:10 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
JTA President Winston Smith.
JTA President Winston Smith.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Private-sector groups and social-service organisations have been urged to collaborate in establishing a school bus system in a bid to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as well as to improve the educational system.

The call has been made by Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) President Winston Smith days before the start of the new academic year, with uncertainty lingering over when, and under what conditions, face-to-face classes will resume.

Smith acknowledged that it would be impossible to reach many students resident in remote communities but said that some investment in improved transportation was better than none at all.

“I do not see anything wrong with private companies donating a bus or two for a particular QEC so if you could have buses that run within the various QECs to transport teachers and children, that would be something good, and I would welcome something like that because we need to have our children back at school,” Smith told The Gleaner yesterday.

QEC is quality-education circle - a segment of a specified education region.

The JTA boss suggested that local outreach organisations join the initiative so that students could have enhanced confidence in coronavirus safety protocols during their commute.

The Ministry of Education is slated to conduct periodic assessments, beginning the week of September 20, to determine when in-person classes can commence for early childhood and secondary-school students.

“We need a total buy-in of corporate entities and civil society, the Kiwanis clubs, the Rotary clubs, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, and all similar bodies to come on board at this time to put everything that they possibly can in our education sector, so that everybody contributes in some way to make the lives of our students better and that the business of education will continue,” said the union leader.

Smith’s advocacy repeats a call made last July by former JTA president Owen Speid that consideration be given for designated transportation of students sitting Caribbean Examinations Council exams amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

Public transportation has been cited as a high-risk spreader of the virus.

At that time, Speid said the school bus system could have been provided for teachers in a similar manner to how public-sector workers were accommodated.

The recommendation found favour with St Andrade Sinclair, regional director of the Western Regional Health Authority, who believes that a structured school bus system would help to contain and track potential COVID-19 outbreaks.

“Having school buses and making sure students are socially distant in the bus would be a plus for us,” Andrade told The Gleaner.

“To have the students in the confines of one area in case any one of them comes up with the virus, it means you would know who is in that bus and that would make our work easier.”

christopher.thomas@gleanerjm.com