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Teachers in Dangriga Protest Unreliable Transportation to Rural Schools

Teachers who reside in Dangriga are upset over the unreliable and unhealthy conditions of the bus that transport them to their respective schools. The group of teachers travel each weekday to several villages including Trio, San Roman, Bladen, Bella Vista and Red Bank. Stann Creek Correspondent, Harry Arzu spoke with some of the teachers who expressed the concerns they have over the transport system saying that this morning there were sixty teachers who needed to get to school and only one bus was made available with a capacity for thirty persons.

Ms. Requeña, Teacher, Bella Vista RC School: We teachers from Stann Creek here, from down south, take a stand this morning right because with this issue, it’s not the only issue. In the past, we had buses break down with us every time on the road.  We have to pay our own passage going and coming from school. The buses catch fire. We hitchhike all the time, no gas, the buses break down all the time, right? So this is our concern this morning. Every week you have a different bus. Every week you have a different driver so we’re just sharing our concerns for them to do better.”

Reporter: So you’re saying that the bus you had this morning is not appropriate for you guys?

Ms. Requeña, Teacher, Bella Vista RC School:  No. It’s the capacity. It can’t take the teacher. It’s leaking. It has a hole, a big hole to the back, a lot of roaches, and smoke.”

Reporter: So what are you guys going to do today now?

Ms. Requeña, Teacher, Bella Vista RC School: Well if a bus is not provided we can’t go and we will not go because we will take a stand because we need something better. We need to go to school tomorrow so hopefully we’ll get a better bus by tomorrow

Reporter: So that  means you’re not going to school today?

Ms. Requeña, Teacher, Bella Vista RC School:  Well I don’t know if we’ll get a bus. If we don’t get a bus by the time 8:00, I am going home. I don’t know about the rest of the teachers. I think we’re all in this.”

Reporter: So everybody is going to take a stand if they don’t get a bus by 8:30? 

Teachers: Yes. We’re going home. 

Ms. Requeña, Teacher, Bella Vista RC School:  Because apparently this morning, the guy that was responsible for this bus said he was going to get a bus but at this time, nothing yet. 

Reporter: Are these bus operators getting paid?

Requeña: I’m not sure. I don’t know. I’m not sure.

Also speaking on the situation and the absence from classes was Aiden Arzu, the principal of Bella Vista RC School. According to Arzu, this is not a novel situation as they have written to the Ministry of Education on the matter.

Adon Arzu, Principal: We’ve written to the ministry because this situation has been ongoing. I have written them. We have complained. We have demanded better regard and respect for the teachers and we continue to have this bus breaking down on us. This morning was really really out of order and we decided that we can no longer tolerate this. We are taking a stand. A spoke to the district manager this morning regarding the bus. She said that she is making arrangements to try to get a back up bus so I must say that I applaud her for her effort because at least she’s trying to do something but in the meantime we’ve decided that we’re going to take a stand and that is what it is. We demand that we get better buses because if we need to do this again tomorrow then that’s what we’re going to do.”

Reporter: So then what happens to all those students down there? 

Adon Arzu, Principal:  “If the ministry is not doing what they are supposed to do then what can we do? Because if the buses are being provided for us to reach school then we would be able to take care of our children so there are certain things that we can do and certain things that are beyond our control. I would have loved to be with my students this morning but how can I do that when we’re not even provided a very decent bus?”

Reporter: So for example, if you guys don’t go today, who will be informing the students that there will be no classes?

Adon Arzu, Principal:  “Well of course as responsible teachers, we will definitely inform the parents. If it means asking them to keep the students at home, we will do that because we don’t want the students to be all over the compound either without a teacher. So it is what it is my brother and so this movement will continue. We’re demanding that we get a better bus and that we be treated with more respect and better regard. That’s our position.”
Following the protest from the teachers this morning our newsroom sought comment from the ministry. According to Rafael Sosa, who is responsible for the national school bus transportation, they have been addressing the matter over the past few weeks.

Our newsroom will keep following this story.