School bus drivers were in an uproar yesterday – Monday, January 7 – over what they claimed was the unfair cancellation of their contracts to transport students to and from government operated schools.
Drivers gathered outside the Harold DeGregory Building calling for authorities to bring some resolution, as students returned to the classroom after the Christmas break.
Irate driver, Kevin Ferguson said that this situation should’ve never happened, especially during school period.
The drivers claimed that their contracts were taken from them in the middle of the agreement. “We are in protest because of the government’s position on taking our contracts, issuing our contracts and sending letters of intent to drivers who does not have buses.
“These buses were ready, they are still ready and their contracts was taken from them prematurely and it is injustice and it is wrong.
“Everyone was trying to purchase buses on Monday, January 7, when school was supposed to start. How can something like this happen when kids are supposed to be getting to school,” said Ferguson.
According to Ferguson, the fault is at the feet of the nation’s leader is Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis. “I blame the prime minister, who is responsible for appointing a Minister for Education, who has dropped the ball over-and-over again. I think, he in conjunction with the Minister of State for Grand Bahama (Sen. Kwasi Thompson), is responsible for this whole episode.
“The opening of the school was delayed for one week, trying to get those selected bus drivers ready for school today and they are still not ready.
“Students are all over the streets waiting for bus drivers to be picked up and persons are being picked up in little coaster cars trying to get them to school,” Ferguson alleged.
Questioning the motive of the situation, Ferguson said, “I don’t understand what kind of government does this. We are calling on the prime minister to make a move to decide whether or not our children’s welfare is more important than an agenda, which is harmful to this country.
“Something has to be done, this is totally wrong and I call on the prime minister, the deputy prime minister (K. Peter Turnquest), who is the Member of Parliament in Freeport to step in.
“We need them to stand up and decide what they are going to do with this country and the people,” said Ferguson.
“Parents, you ought to decide whether or not this government have your children welfare at heart.”
Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime, Sen. J. Kwasi Thompson in a statement, Monday afternoon stated, “The complaint from a few persons whose bus contracts were lawfully terminated have absolutely no merit.
“Ministry of Education has stated that these contracts were terminated in accordance with the contract.”
Although Thompson confirmed contracts were indeed terminated, he also noted, “they remained in place under this administration for over 18 months.
“Ministry of Education officials Ivan Butler has stated that no school in the West Grand Bahama District experienced any major difficulty as related to the pickup and drop off of school children this morning.
“In addition, Mrs. Yvonne Ward has reported similarly, with one exception where a new bus driver had to be introduced to students.
“This matter was quickly resolved by the principal. She reported that all other schools that reported to her said pickups proceeded with no incidents.
“We should not be interjecting politics in our schools, we all want the best for our students and should keep politics out of the education system. We must not be distracted by these political arguments that have no merit.”
Thompson continued, “we will remain focused on providing quality education for our children.
“Today was a blatant attempt to distract the public from what the government is actually accomplishing through the signing of the digitization upgrade programme over the weekend and the other accomplishments like creating a new BTVI Tech Programme for High School students, making BTVI free of charge and signing of MOU with CISCO. I commend the Minister of Education for fulfilling the government’s commitment to create smart schools in Grand Bahama.
“I encourage them to remain focused at not be distracted by political rhetoric that have no merit.”