Turning up late for classes

Editorial, Normal

The National, Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WE are too busy fighting our way to work each morning, we are oblivious to the exact same and, perhaps, worse dilemma faced by our children each day.
Every morning, there is a mad scramble for buses and every available motor vehicle transport for Port Moresby city’s tens of thousands of school children.
Many do not make it and are often rejected by irate bus operators who, understandably, wish to pick up adult fares during this peak hour.
Little children and female students have to fight the hardest and are often the biggest losers. They have to wait until adults have boarded and there are rooms on buses and, by then, they are way too late for schools’ assembly and deep into the first period.
In the melee, often, students’ handbags containing their books, lunch and mobile phones are snatched by thieves at bus stops.
The story is the same in the afternoons when there is another scramble to get home.
It is sad to see students fighting to get on every available space offered by parents or kind truck drivers in the mornings.
Many only have standing room and are transported to school clinging onto each other in an upright position, a highly dangerous situation and quite illegal. But, it is done daily.
Today, we carry a complaint by students attending one high school in Port Moresby highlighting yet another worrying aspect of the transport problem.
Students tell us Tokarara Secondary School sends up to 250 late arriving students home daily.
Students said the school’s hard-line stance was seriously affecting their studies.
While some lazy students make it a habit, other far more genuine are late simply because they are unable to get there on time, despite their best efforts.
A student spokesperson told The National that some of the teachers agreed students living furthest from the school ought to be given until 8.30am to arrive, but the administration maintained its 7.30am start to classes.
Those arriving after that are then forced to miss classes for the day.
Students who live as far away as 7-Mile, 9-Mile, Goldie and Taurama are being sent home for no fault of their own.
This is most discouraging and will have a long-term effect on the lives of our children.
These students are wasting bus fares getting to school daily only to be sent away for the rest of the day.
It is good for any school to set strict policies and standards for their staff and students to follow.
Yet, in a situation such as this, there must be room for relaxation of the rules simply because it is plainly impossible to reach the school on time.
We have highlighted, time and again, the traffic congestion on the streets of Port Moresby. It will continue to grow and, eventually, it will be virtually impossible for anyone, worker or student, to get to their destinations on time.
It is high time schools’ boards and managements put the transport problem high on their agenda.
The Marianville girls’ only secondary school outside Port Moresby runs a dedicated bus service throughout the city each morning and afternoon. There are selected strategic drop-off and pick-up points throughout the city.
We urge other schools to do likewise. It will cost the schools extra but it is well worth the trouble.
Were one to calculate how much a student spends weekly just to catch buses, one would be astounded to discover that it works up to a sizeable sum. Multiply that by the number of students and it is quite plausible that a reasonable bus or two can be purchased by individual schools to transport students.
At the rate of K1 per day for bus fare, one student would be spending K20 per month or K240 per year. A school of 500 students would easily come up with K120,000 just like that.
City Hall puts three buses exclusively for students – one for Moresby Northwest, one for Moresby Northeast and another for Moresby South – but we are uncertain as to their condition and whether or not they are still operating.
City Hall must seriously consider putting more buses for schools in the city. Other towns and cities may need to consider the same.
We wonder why some enterprising bus owner has not thought to hire their buses to schools for the peak period runs to and from schools.