By Theresa Goodwin
Primary and secondary school students who fail to comply with the mandatory wearing of facemasks while using school buses will be banned until further notice.
Network manager of the government’s Motor Pool, Arif Jonas, says this drastic measure is necessary because some students have flatly refused to keep their facemasks on for the duration of their journey and, in some cases, have been disrespectful and abusive to conductors and drivers when they are approached.
“I really need to call on the parents to get more involved and to speak to their children. Within the school bus system, we are responsible for getting your children to and from schools safely; we also have to ensure that the health and safety of our drivers are also taken care of,” Jonas said.
He said measures already in place will be strictly enforced to ensure that youngsters who refuse to comply are dealt with.
“Reports are coming from a particular student refusing to comply with the mask-wearing on the bus. They will be banned from riding the school bus,” Jonas warned.
“We cannot allow one or two children to put the lives of everyone else in jeopardy and it is not fair for those who are complying to suffer for those who refuse to comply,” he added.
For students who flout the rules, an official letter will be sent to the school informing administrators of the infraction and requesting a meeting with the child’s parents before they are allowed back on the school bus.
Jonas explained that, in some instances, parents are not leading by example.
He spoke of occasions where parents and guardians are placing younger children on the bus and neither the adult or the child are wearing facemasks.
Another major cause for concern is new students who are using the bus system for the first time.
Jonas explained that many of these students have no knowledge of where they should be dropped off and, in some cases, there is no contact number to make inquiries.
“We have had to take students back to the school in the afternoons because we have no idea where to take them. We are having the same issue at the East Bus Station; parents come and drop off their children and there is no communication with anyone at the terminal,” Jonas said.
On several occasions, students were left stranded and a “sweeper” bus had to be sent back to take them to their respective locations.
He commends the drivers and conductors who have taken the initiative to assist where possible, but encouraged parents to do their part too.