Secondary school students residing in Aroaima, Ladern’s Ville and Hururu, communities located in the Upper-Berbice District, are currently facing difficulty attending school in Kwakwani, which is located some 18 miles away from their respective villages. This issue arose after the Russian Aluminum Company- RUSAL suspended its operation back in February,2020, which was followed by the termination of contracts with its bus transportation providers from Kwakwani, in late August 2021.
Parents from the respective communities who have children attending the Kwakwani Secondary School, are now struggling to send their children to school, following the recent reopening of schools around Guyana, to facilitate face- to-face learning.
Frustrated parents related to this media house, that the situation is one of urgency and is calling on the Ministry of Education and the Regional Democratic Council, to provide some sort of relief, so that students can attend school more regularly and punctually.
Regional Chairman Deron Adams, related that the unfortunate situation was brought to his attention some months back and he has been instrumental in the Department of Education’s procurement of a $16 M 30-seater Minibus. However, according to the Regional Education Officer (ag), La Shana Anderson, the minibus would have been procured but is yet to be uplifted. She said it should be handed over to the villagers before the month concludes.
Parents are calling on the officials, to make good on their promise, since the situation is affecting them financially.
“This is a very urgent situation because school open for face-to-face learning and our children are not able to attend school; even if is just the gas they can provide for us and we will pay the other half to the bus driver, but we need a bus,” Karil Smith, a resident of Ladern’s Ville posited.
According to Smith, residents will also welcome the offer of having the RDC’s boat made available to the students, which will transport them via the Berbice River, to the Kwakwani Waterfront, where the “David G” school bus will then transport them to the Kwakwani Secondary School, which is located some 10 minutes away from the Waterfront.
Meanwhile, Monnever Phillips, who is also a parent and a resident of Ladern’s Ville, related that the current situation is financially burdening to her and other parents, since many would have lost their jobs after RUSAL suspended operations. Many were forced to seek jobs outside the region while others resorted to logging and farming. Parents are finding it difficult to afford the $2000.00 for transportation cost, which excludes other expenses, such as meals. “The situation can be very frustrating; the children are being deprived of education because they cannot access transportation and it is really frustrating for us as parents. Even if we would have to stand the expense, it would cost us two thousand dollars per day, inclusive of something to eat,” frustrated Phillips told INFO 10.
30-seater bus procured
Local content policy breached
While residents welcome the spanking new mini bus with open arms, former transportation service provider, Howard Lepps, informed INFO 10 of his disappointment in the manner in which the situation is being dealt with, basing his grounds on the local content policy.
Lepps, who is a resident of Kwakwani, explained that he has been contracted by RUSAL for some 10 years and like everyone else in the Upper-Berbice District, he is similarly affected and more-so, the majority of his work force since he was forced to layoff. He opined that the government and regional officials should direct their focus on local content as a kickstart, in fostering a sustainable economy in this part of the country.
He also noted that $16 M being spent on one minibus is not conducive when maintenance expenditure is taken into consideration . “The money spent on the bus could have been used to transport the children for two years with my service. You have to pay a driver between five thousand to six thousand ($5000-$6000); the minimum for a driver a day, 15 gallons of fuel daily ($1000.00 a gallon) and monies need to be put aside for maintenance; and with the state of that road, I guarantee, the bus will only last six months the maximum,” Lepps related.
He also added that the communities were not consulted on the purchase of the 30-seater minibus since it is not adequate in its capacity to transport approximately 60 school children on a daily basis, with all classes being in effect for face-to-face learning. “That makes no sense, the will have to make two trips and look at the distance,” Lepps said.
In efforts to honour their corporate responsibilities, bauxite companies operating in the district from as far back as the late 1980’s or the early 1990’s, would normally provide a number of social services, transportation for students being a main one.