- Rev. Thwaites said that Holmwood’s school bus system “is a model for other communities (to emulate).”
- Some 18 buses have been contracted by the school to transport students between Mandeville and Christiana.
- School administrations across the island are encouraged to follow Holmwood Technical High School’s example and establish community school bus systems, to ensure that their students are able to commute safely.
School Boards and administrations across the island are being encouraged to follow Holmwood Technical High School’s example and establish community school bus systems, to ensure that their students are able to commute safely.
The call has come from Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, after he witnessed the launch of the Christiana-based institution’s community school bus service for its students, at the Manchester Parish Council’s municipal parking lot in Mandeville, on October 7.
The service was inaugurated in direct response to the September 25 tragic accident along the Chudleigh main road in Manchester, which claimed the lives of four Holmwood students and injured several others, who were aboard two public passenger vehicles involved, while on their way to school.
Some 18 buses have been contracted by the school to transport students between Mandeville and Christiana. Two additional hubs are slated to be established at Cave Valley, St. Ann, and Albert Town, Trelawny, where a number of the Holmwood students also reside.
Speaking at a media briefing in Mandeville after the launch, Rev. Thwaites said that Holmwood’s school bus system “is a model for other communities (to emulate).” He expressed the hope that “many other areas” will follow suit, while commending those currently embarking on similar initiatives. These, he pointed out, include stakeholders in Portmore, St. Catherine, and sections of St. Elizabeth and Hanover.
“We want the joyous and disciplined system that we have seen pulling out of the bus park (in Mandeville) today to Christiana (replicated islandwide). This is the power of co-operation, and this is the way we must organize ourselves, not only in the field of education and in child safety, but I believe in all aspects of national life,” the Minister said.
Rev. Thwaites also challenged the drivers contracted to Holmwood to be up to par in fulfilling their commitment to the students, school and wider community.
“We are insisting that every bus driver and every bus be checked out properly to ensure that there are no renegades, there are no people with outstanding tickets, that proper training is administered, that there is good order on the buses and that the drivers wear uniforms. This is the way it must go,” he emphasized.
In his remarks, Member of Parliament for North East Manchester, where Holmwood is located, Audley Shaw, expressed gratitude for the extent of stakeholder interventions extended to Holmwood and Christiana.
He thanked Rev. Thwaites for “his care and attention and his responsiveness with the sense of urgency that the situation demanded.” He also thanked the JUTC and Managing Director, Colin Campbell, who was “exceedingly responsive” to addressing the needs of Holmwood, and Christiana High School
“In terms of the Christiana High School…while Holmwood was planning its (transportation) arrangements, Christiana was not. I asked Mr. Campbell to intervene, because we had a situation where the Holmwood students were being taken care of, but the Christiana children were left, pretty much, to go back to the old system,” he outlined.
Mr. Shaw said consequently, the JUTC gave an undertaking to maintain service for Christiana High students for the remainder of this week, at least.
The Member of Parliament urged the Christiana School Board and administration to “work on a similar (bus) system (as Holmwood), for implementation by next Monday (October 14).”
For his part, Mr. Campbell said it was a “pleasure” for the JUTC to assist, and in the process provide the “back drop” from which a genuine community school bus system could have been launched.
“It was a good intervention by the State. It is very important that we do not have a repetition of what happened two weeks ago. We cannot have the future of Jamaica be so wasted by people who don’t care and who are, in a sense, not only careless, but they are using children in order to further their own situation in a selfish way,” Mr. Campbell said.