Bus service for Lethem’s students

Georgetown, Guyana, March 27, 2017 – Communities in Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo will now benefit from a timely initiative of the Lethem Mayor and Town Council to provide transportation services to hundreds of students there.

The council purchased a 32-seater bus at the cost of $9M after recognizing the plight of families within the communities.

The 32-seater bus began its inaugural route on Thursday and transported the students to school free of cost on Thursday and Friday. The payment system took effect as of Monday, March 27, 2017.

The newly commissioned 32-seater bus

The bus will provide service to six schools within the municipality including the St Ignatius Secondary School, two primary schools and three nursery schools.

Each child will be required to pay $1,000 per week (200 per day) and teachers will also benefit from the transportation service as well.

Lethem Mayor, Carlton Beckles said that a second bus will also be purchased in the coming months to address the many concerns as it relates to transportation.

Beckles disclosed that council has a responsibility to parents to ensure that children have the necessary transportation service to attend school.

He noted that although many hinterland communities across the country benefited from President David Granger school-bus initiative, Lethem has so far not been a recipient.

“So from the municipality we have purchased this bus to get the children to school at an extremely reduced fare,” Beckles remarked.

In addition to providing much-needed financial relief to the parents in the communities, the bus service is intended to be of economic benefit to the municipality.

Beckles explained that the funds garnered from the service is earmarked for education development in the municipality.

The throng of residents who turned out at the commissioning of the Lethem Bus Service

“Parents have to pay as much as $2000 or $2500 a week per child and that is from Lethem to St Ignatius. If you have three children going to school and you are paying between $2000 and $2500, you are paying between $6000 and $7500 a week,” Beckles pointed out.

Deputy Mayor, Maxine Welch said that the school bus system is not one that is meant to compete with private service providers but was initiated to assisting children in the communities that traverse long distances on foot to and from school.

She noted that additionally some parents have more than one school-aged child and live in far flung communities and as such may not be able to afford the cost of transporting them to school.

Welch disclosed that parents who can afford it are forced to use taxis at a cost of as much as $3,000 per child.

She pointed out that single parents with many children were the most affected by this exorbitant cost.

The Deputy Mayor noted that the new transportation arrangement will boost student attendance and punctuality.

“There are so many things that we as a council can so to enhance the education system in this region. This is just one of them. In the future we will be working towards implementing more of what we hope to achieve during our tenure in order to ensure that this municipality and the region benefit,” Welch stated.

The newly commissioned 32-seater bus

Regional Chairman, Bryan Allicock, during brief remarks, applauded the municipality’s initiative which he said will be of tremendous benefit to the community.

At the commissioning ceremony, Regional Education Officer (REDO) Marlene Sears-Joseph thrilled the audience with a beautiful rendition.

She too spoke about the benefits of the transport service to the community. There was a large turn out from members of the community and the positivity was encouraging.

One former resident of Lethem, who now works as a Journalist had this to say, “It’s about time…the first day I attended secondary school miles away I remember almost crying on the way back home…the sun and distance…I stopped and sat on the road to rest…11 year old me….I’m glad students now have a better option.”

The vote of thanks was done by Akima Demetro who topped the region at the Grade Six Assessment at the Araipaima Primary School. Demetro now attends the St Ignatius Secondary School.