Two Mondays ago, I witnessed the most unsettling pulling and tugging of a young schoolgirl by minibus conductors and touts operating the Stabroek-South route. The hassle some passengers face from these public transport operators is overbearing to say the least, especially for commuters who would prefer to select a minibus of their choice in which to travel.
As I sat in the front passenger seat of one of the South buses waiting for it to fill, my eyes glanced towards the young girl as she approached the park about 3.30 that afternoon. She was suddenly flocked by conductors and touts who began pulling and tugging at her, each trying to persuade her to travel with them. I shouted at them to stop treating the young lady in that manner.
While this disgusting and unsightly minibus culture we have in most parts of the country is nothing new, the young lady was clearly not up to it. She was visibly upset with the way in which the men were handling her. I too became annoyed, but not nearly as irate as when one of the touts into whose bus the girl had gone came and proudly announced to the conductor of the bus I was in, that he had touched her improperly. (She went into his bus which had already left the park by then).
As the bus I was in pulled off just then, I upbraided the men who casually laughed it off, and asked the conductor of the bus I was in ‒ who by the way was a much older man than the other errant conductor ‒ whether he had daughters. I further enquired how he would feel if someone had done that to her. The man responded that he does have daughters, but much to my surprise for an adult, he coldheartedly added, “dem lil gurls gaffa know.”
Editor, I cringed. Where are the days when adults looked out for the interest and well-being of children, be it their own or someone else’s? Where are the days when communities and villages raised children? If what that conductor said he did to that young girl was true, it is indeed sad.
This culture of wanton disregard by some minibus operators, not allowing passengers to choose which bus to travel in, has got to stop. It has become the norm for far too long. It is further compounded by the playing of loud and obscene music, the overloading of minibuses, reckless driving, and in some cases even drunk driving.
The government is seemingly trying all it can to restore decency, but such behaviour by some bus operators, acts only to sabotage its efforts. While the government has provided transportation for schoolchildren around Georgetown, in some cases, it is not yet convenient for every child to take advantage of the service. As a result, some must still rely on catching private minibuses.
But the time has come for those private errant operators to realize that they provide a public service and must be respectable to their passengers, irrespective of age.
Editor, might I suggest the presence of school welfare/probation officers at the parks in and around Georgetown at specified times during the day. This can be part of their field work, and would afford them the opportunity of making meaningful observations regarding our schoolchildren.
I am certain their presence could help to eradicate issues such as loitering, bus-riding, and truancy, and might even lead to the detection of many other issues facing our children.
They can consider doing this before schools are scheduled to commence in the mornings, and after they have dismissed in the afternoon. Random checks can also be made at other intervals on any given day.
Given the transient nature of the Stabroek bus park, which sees a hub of people traversing all day, the relevant authorities may even want to consider mounting surveillance cameras in that area.
The presence of cameras could likely reduce crimes there, whether petty or otherwise, as clearly the police outpost in the area is not as efficient as it should be.
It should also be compulsory for minibus operators to wear badges containing their names, photographs and the registration number of the bus on which they work. In this way, it would be easy to identify errant operators who have committed indiscretions.