- A team of Ministry officials visited bereaved students and staff of the Holmwood Technical High School.
- Their visit came in the aftermath of Wednesday’s (September 25) fatal traffic accident in Chudleigh.
- The visitors all participated in the school’s devotional exercise on Thursday.
Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, led a team of Ministry officials from Kingston to visit bereaved students and staff of the Holmwood Technical High School, in Christiana, Manchester, on Thursday, September 26.
Their visit came in the aftermath of Wednesday’s (September 25) fatal traffic accident in Chudleigh, Manchester, which claimed the lives of four of the institution’s students and injured several others, who were aboard the two public passenger vehicles involved, on their way to school.
Rev. Thwaites was accompanied by Permanent Secretary, Elaine Foster-Allen; Chief Education Officer, Grace McLean, and the Ministry’s Region V Director, Nadine Leachman, who joined Principal, Paul Bailey, and the staff in a strong show of support and solidarity with an institution in mourning.
They were joined by a number of other stakeholders, including Member of Parliament for north east Manchester, where Holmwood is located, Audley Shaw; School Board Chairman, Ruel Crawford; Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) Safe School Unit National Coordinator, Sergeant Coleridge Minto; Chief Executive Officer of the Percy Junor Hospital in Spaldings, Clarendon, Earl McLaughlin; and teachers from a number of neighbouring institutions such as Christiana and Spaldings High Schools, and Knox College.
Their visit was a follow-up to one on Wednesday, September 25, by Region V officers who, along with other stakeholders, provided counselling support for the traumatized Holmwood fraternity.
The visitors all participated in the school’s devotional exercise on Thursday, which was an emotional occasion for a number of the students. Several of them were reduced to tears, as they remembered the previous day’s tragic incident. They were consoled during the proceedings by Rev. Thwaites, Mrs. Foster-Allen and Ms. McLean, along with teachers and guidance counsellors.
The student body was addressed by Rev Thwaites, Mr. Shaw, Sgt. Minto, Mr. Crawford, and Mr. McLaughlin. Thereafter, both Rev. Thwaites and Mr. Shaw met with the staff.
Speaking with journalists, Rev. Thwaites said he will be asking the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing to maintain the provisional bus service currently being operated between Mandeville and Christiana by the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), beyond Thursday, September 26 and Friday, September 27, until a permanently structured system is put in place.
He advised that the teachers have made several proposals and suggestions on transportation improvements.
“The matter will be taken to the Parent/Teacher Association (PTA) meeting next Thursday, October 3. We have challenged them, and they have agreed, to set up a community organization which would designate buses to operate in a disciplined manner between Christiana and the points from which students come,” the Minister said.
Rev. Thwaites also said the Ministry has “challenged” the Transport Authority (TA) to “act decisively” in ensuring that public passenger vehicle operators and drivers breaching road traffic regulations are prosecuted, “and we trust that they will take immediate action.”
The Minister, however, underscored the need for the students’ co-operation and implored them to use the transportation services provided to ensure they can commute between home and school safely. He also urged parents and the wider community to also play their part in this regard.
“One of the most distressing things we heard from the Head of the Southern Region for the Transport Authority (TA) is that their officers had to virtually cajole students to get into the JUTC bus in Mandeville this morning. We have to change that whole culture, that whole mindset and it’s going to need the parents, it’s going to need the community…and it doesn’t only apply to this area…it’s national problem,” the Minister said.
Mr. Shaw, who endorsed Rev. Thwaites sentiments, suggested that parents need be more forthright on the matter by taking decisions on the transportation option by which their children commute.
“(The parents must decide) whether they (children) are going to travel in the cramped and inappropriate conditions in those mini buses with the rampant indiscipline, the loud music, the lewd lyrics, all of that, or they are going to go in a dignified and safe manner, in a well regulated bus that is larger, that is more comfortable,” Mr. Shaw said.
Meanwhile, Rev. Thwaites asserted that “the disorder, the indiscipline leading to the chaos and blood flowing, as happened here yesterday, has to conclusively change…that is what we (Rev. Thwaites and Mr. Shaw) are demanding.”