On the bus to nowhere fast

In 2008, then Prime Minister David Thompson, in his first national Budget, announced the introduction of free bus rides for the island’s school children.

The move, largely seen as a public good, was designed to curb deviant behaviour among our boys and girls and to ensure they refocus on the more pertinent business of achieving a well-rounded education.

Nine years later, even without scientific evidence, the measure has largely failed to achieve its desired objective for more than one reason.

Last week, the issue of the transportation of the nation’s children surfaced as a key talking point after three secondary school students allegedly attacked a conductor onboard a public service vehicle (PSV) with a cutlass.

As usual, the shocking incident sparked public outrage, particularly among PSV operators and owners, with several venting their frustration about the “rowdy” behaviour exhibited by some students. Some went as far as to call for greater police presence in the terminals and even on the buses.

One operator, who requested anonymity, told this media house the behaviour of the students was getting out of hand.

“The school children give a lot of trouble on both the vans and Transport Board buses. They don’t know how to behave. When they catch the van and refuse to pay, you put them off, they wait until the van go long and throw big rocks through the window. That could injure anyone or even kill someone,” he said.

“They need to have an officer travelling in these buses and vans to keep the children in check. The bad behaviour is unacceptable now.”

No doubt, this charge is a damning indictment on all of us and none can feign surprise.

Yet, a wise caution oft shared by elderly folk reminds us that “chickens have come home to roost”.

Our PSV operators can hardly deny that they have helped to nurture some of the deviance among our youngsters.

It is on our PSVs that children are subjected to loud and explicitly vulgar music, the lyrics of which cannot and should not be mentioned in this newspaper.

As one honest operator admitted, some PSV operators encourage this bad behaviour.

He said: “Some of the drivers are to blame too. They are driving and playing music [and] from the time they [students] hear, ‘bup bup bup bup’ them gone wild. So the . . . [drivers] encourage them and they take it on and do foolishness,” he added.

And the problem does not stop with noise.

PSVs are famous for joy rides and encouraging students to tightly pack in for the drive. Some even order children to sit on each other.

Students are also onlookers when PSV operators openly flout the law, breaking road traffic rules and disregarding instructions from police officers.

Still, they cannot take all the blame.

While the ruling Democratic Labour Party introduced the laudable no-pay system for our children – and we are not discussing the financial burden at this stage – it failed to ensure that the Transport Board was well equipped to service our students in a timely, efficient manner. The fact is some of our students are forced to resort to using PSVs to get to school.

There can be no denying that, in recent months in particular, our public transport system has been dismal at best. Parents have resorted to call-in programmes to vent their frustration that a child who is at a bus stop from as early as 6:30 a.m. is still there at 10 a.m. And after school, some who arrived in the bus terminal at 3:15 p.m. cannot get a bus until 6:15. p.m. Unacceptable!

At the same time, the Transport Board has not escaped the deviance of some youngsters. Just today, two boys were charged after a stabbing incident on a school bus yesterday.

At the height of the debate, President of the Alliance of Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) Roy Raphael has proposed the use of private contractors to provide services, similar to what pertains in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

While there may be some merit to his call and it could be worthwhile exploring, that alone is not the answer. Children can easily get up to mischief on private vehicles.

More has to be done to protect this future generation from itself on several fronts.

The Ministry of Education has a duty to deal with the issue of the transport of our children. The Ministry of Transport and Works has to find a realistic, workable plan to ensure our children are transported to their classrooms in a safe and timely manner, and PSV operators can do better by following the rules.

And, of course, there is the home. At risk of beating a dead horse, parents ought to care about what takes place during that short or not-so-short journey that their children unavoidably take every school day. Training your children about proper conduct, insisting on good behaviour is a must, lest we continue on the road to nowhere fast.

32 Responses to On the bus to nowhere fast

  1. Larry Thompson
    Larry Thompson November 9, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    David Thompson is to blame

    • Anfaani Henry
      Anfaani Henry November 10, 2017 at 6:02 am

      no, the parents who don’t teach their kids to appreciate what is offered to them and the value of it are to blame. he did not tell them come on the bus and act like unmannerly farm animals. blame the ones who breed them.

      • harry turnover November 10, 2017 at 7:27 am

        So Anfaani the parents are to blame for the ALL the CRIMES that are committed by GROWN MEN and WOMEN too ? after all they are the CHILDREN of those parents.
        Children CHANGE and get a mind of their OWN no matter what their parents say or do when they reach 13 or so.
        and in the presence of other children often do things that they would not do at home or when alone either to impress or to show off.

        • Mr. B November 10, 2017 at 8:21 am

          I would always remember the saying”train up a child in the way it should go and when it get old it won’t depart from it” also you can’t bend a tree she it big cause it will break. So the only Ines to blame is we the adults_ both parents and all those who have responsibility for our children. The adults heed to set better examples for our kids. They learn what they live. So blame wonna self for the deviant children. Their ill discipline Dont start when they get to secondary school . we as adults have surrendered our God given right for training our children to technology. We need to get back to the old-fashioned way of nurturing our children and not leaving it for someone else to do…..just saying

    • Cindy Bunting
      Cindy Bunting November 10, 2017 at 6:38 am

      Exactly Anfaani Henry!

    • Larry Thompson
      Larry Thompson November 10, 2017 at 8:12 am

      Busfare should had never been free. When real poor ppl needed free bus fare in the sixties and seventies. They was none .ppl walk from roebuck school .metropolitan high.st Leonards and all those school to areas if black rock. Now you got them gettin on at blackrock to go to kentucky and cheffette. Not even to school.

    • Anfaani Henry
      Anfaani Henry November 10, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      Larry Thompson that’s not everyone. They would do that if they had money to go or walk there.

    • Larry Thompson
      Larry Thompson November 10, 2017 at 1:32 pm

      Anfaani Henry dont understand more cars now less poor ppl now

    • Anfaani Henry
      Anfaani Henry November 10, 2017 at 2:04 pm

      not everyone, just some who would floss anyway. you can’t paint people with a broad brush and say well doan let the kids ride because of some greedy brutes who will just take advantage and mash up the bus

  2. Tony Webster November 10, 2017 at 12:08 am

    Mia has a dauning and unprecedented “To do” list, but she will rise to such challenges.

  3. Noel Jones
    Noel Jones November 10, 2017 at 4:47 am

    Free bus rides was a failure from the beginning

    • Colleen Worrell
      Colleen Worrell November 10, 2017 at 6:26 am

      So true

    • Tracey Archer
      Tracey Archer November 10, 2017 at 7:18 am

      I said that from the time it started…i see children waiting at a bus stop…that is a distanxce of 2 bus stops a way from their school late or not waiting for a bus when they can simply walk

    • Sandy Alleyne
      Sandy Alleyne November 10, 2017 at 7:44 am

      free bus ride should only be apply to the kids who parents could not afford to pay.All others should pay big big mistake when David Thompson did that stupid thing now some of these school kids are just animals a generation of Vipers

    • Claire Battershield
      Claire Battershield November 10, 2017 at 8:04 am

      Was just a gimmick. No studies done. Need assessments was to be done. The TRULY needy would get a special pass and the others the $1.50. Easy.

    • Faye Heather Greenidge
      Faye Heather Greenidge November 10, 2017 at 2:14 pm


  4. Anfaani Henry
    Anfaani Henry November 10, 2017 at 6:01 am

    they don’t appreciate, and make it bad for the ones who do.

  5. Michelle Griffith
    Michelle Griffith November 10, 2017 at 6:15 am

    Larry and Roger that is the most nonsense I have heard so far……. Stupse
    Now a person tried to help out some of these parents by letting these school children travel free on the Transport Board buses, trying to help these poor people yeah, now the children get on the said buses and get on like pigs in a pig pen, not only that some doing sexual acts too, I was in a bus where a driver actually stopped the bus, and told two Alleyne School students, to desist from what they were doing if not he is going to take the bus to the police station, the boy was on the bus, as we would say feeling up the girl, and she enjoying it, in plain sight, tell me how is David Thompson and the DLP to blame. I never agreed with the idea and I still don’t.

    • Roger Fitzgerald
      Roger Fitzgerald November 10, 2017 at 6:54 am

      Michelle Griffith if it looks like a dog walks like a dog smells like a dog an barks like a dog den logic tells me it’s a dog

  6. Lilian Lloyd
    Lilian Lloyd November 10, 2017 at 6:36 am
  7. The Negrocrat November 10, 2017 at 6:48 am

    we pay the taxes to run these buses. They waste our money and yet we tal about free us service.
    The only free money is the money that is overpaid to those who line their pockets for poor quality work/services.

  8. Queenie ShaSha
    Queenie ShaSha November 10, 2017 at 6:58 am

    OK…. No 1 these kids are ungrateful and entitled. Talk to any of them you will understand that. The mentality of I must get and free things has metasized into an attitude of ungratefulness so they don’t care.
    2. I’ve traveled on many a PSV and enjoyed all the music as an adult and child.NEver once have I attacked or caused a worker harm or defaced their property. Its a choice by children who don’t care. They are not dummies and by the age of 12 you know what is right from wrong. Its a combination of knowing that no one can do them anything because of the new law and pushing peoples buttons so therefore we have created these monsters who will start to do the most whilst the adults stand with their hands tied and tongues bitten in fear of prosecution whilst kids do the absolute most. The kids fear no one but we fear them.
    No.3 A lot of parents don’t know what they doing when it comes to parenting……. So when it comes to telling they need to be better parents and maybegoing to visit paredos or counselling for their troubled kids, its a fail. But when teachers et am say these things we are quick to blind them but now others are calling it out maybe we can put deal with the fact that the american values we are adopting are creating american type kids who slam their parents doors , swear at them and tell them they are stupid and if we dare raise our voice at them or hit them we are incarcerated butnthr kids get off scotch free….

  9. Queenie ShaSha
    Queenie ShaSha November 10, 2017 at 7:00 am

    And I’ve heard some Edna Nicholss is a breeze but just like with the prisoners .. The roads need clearing and debushing and community service is still good public shaming …

  10. Rawle Spooner
    Rawle Spooner November 10, 2017 at 7:03 am

    Ok lets be clear good behavior starts with parents but beyond that there are many issues in today society where adults are acting worse than little kids and even posting it on social media for all to see.Wonder why kids today getting some of the bad behavior from.

  11. singer November 10, 2017 at 7:09 am

    I am a parent and I think its time that school children pay bus fear and buses and PSV fears should be $3 now cause we in Barbados got it easy cause when we travel to st.Lucia;st.Vincent or where ever we have to pay different bus fear or van fear right just saying.

  12. Shaun Yarde
    Shaun Yarde November 10, 2017 at 8:05 am

    No wonder y the board is struggling .

  13. Shaun Yarde
    Shaun Yarde November 10, 2017 at 8:05 am

    It should be running as a business

  14. Ryan Bayne
    Ryan Bayne November 10, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Sorry, David. You were so wrong on that one.

  15. viterose Elaine Van Huis November 10, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Children reflect the action or non-action of the generation before them. Perhaps Barbadians must refocus their effort on giving their children life’s best things that cannot be bought or sold, Honesty, truthfulness, integrity, kindness and thoughtfulness. Integrity is particularly important, for when a child is taught to have integrity it will behave even when those in charge are not looking. The materialist society that Barbados has become is now being reflected in the behavior of it’s people.

  16. Sue Donym November 10, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Some well presented thoughts in this piece.
    A point on the analysis. The mention of the home and family factor is added almost like an afterthought, against the context of which the rights and responsibilities of the other agencies are stated. I would say that this is the biggest factor in what is really a societal problem that runs deep.

    The evidence of bad behaviour on Transport Board buses leads us to consider elements at work beyond the music and enabling attitudes of other PSV workers.

    Was the free bus fare really anything other than a comfort offering to an electorate being prepared for other measures? The inefficiencies at Transport Board were already well known and there are still routes not served or poorly served where children must use privately owned PSVs.

  17. Ziggy Blessed
    Ziggy Blessed November 10, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    PM Thompson sought to put his name in the history books and align himself as the late great Rt.Excellent PM Barrow……FAIL!!!!! Unfortunate he only had 2 years…..I feel he would have made a difference ….alas it was not to be

  18. Ta-shasher Mayers
    Ta-shasher Mayers November 10, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    Should’ve never been free from day one, every day I have to fight to control myself while on the buses or van with these hooligans. Disgusting and disrespectful behavior they should be paying $2 cause they pay it if required.


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