Scores of residents yesterday protested the hazardous state of the Kuru Kuru access road and they vowed to keep their children from school until the authorities take action.
Over 50 parents and even more students from the Kuru Kuru Nursery, Primary and Secondary schools planted themselves along the access road from as early as 8 am, with placards in hand, and they protested until 3 pm.
The residents, who are parents of children attending the three schools, said that their frustration reached its limit after a bus that was filled with more than 40 school children, teachers and some parents almost toppled over on the road while taking them to the school last Wednesday.
“I have been living here for more than 10 years and this road has been bad way longer than that. On Wednesday I was in the bus when it nearly fall over on its side when it was going up one of the hills and it had children inside packed to capacity and that just pushed all of us parents over the edge,” a parent, who identified herself as Shepherd, explained.
The protesting parents said they would not be sending their children to school until the relevant authorities address their “emergency.” “We are not sending them for the week because we have to get some justice. The buses have to drive in a zig zag and in three different lanes to reach up the hill and we are not going to wait until something serious happens and then we stand up and air our voices,” Shepherd added.
When Stabroek News surveyed the approximately 4 km stretch of road, potholes of varying sizes and other structural faults were observed. Heavy erosion was also seen, and for large stretches, the shoulders of the road, which is made of thick sand, merged with the asphalt. Thick deposits of mud and pools of water were also seen, which the residents say are traps, where vehicles would often end up stuck.
As a result, some vehicles, especially large buses, are unable to properly manoeuvre along the road and they often end up stuck in thick sand when they attempt to drive along the road’s shoulder. Whenever this occurs, the parents explained, the children and other occupants of the buses would normally have to exit and offer their assistance with moving the vehicle.
Even though there are other smaller community roads that can be used to manoeuvre around the more deplorable sections of the access road, the large buses are unable to use the alternative routes.
Other than using the buses, some parents and children walk the entire stretch of road every day to go and return from school.
‘For our children’
“Besides buses they walk. People usually use the community roads but the buses can’t use it and there’s no way we can allow them to continue traversing this road with our children inside of them. Next thing you know one day we have to get a message that they get fatalities out there and then who are going to tell us sorry? We don’t want sorry,” another resident and parent, Samuel Wilson, related to Stabroek News.
The congregation of parents, accompanied by police officers, held their placards high in the air and walked the length of the road. Shouts of “No road, no school” and “Bad road, no school” echoed through the little community as the crowd grew.
“This road has been like this for more than 26 years and all of the government ministers and everyone knows about the situation of the road. They don’t even want to come in here anymore so they changed the venue of the graduations from at the back to the cultural centre. One time [President David] Granger came and he parked his cars outside and [they] had to take a 4×4 to take him in there and that shows how bad it is and they want those big buses full with children to be going up and down,” Wilson explained.
The parents emphasised that their protest was in no way political and said they want to ensure that no one interprets it that way. They explained that their only concern is the safety of their children and other residents of the community that are put in danger every time they decide to travel along the road.
“Our interest out here today is not for any political mileage. This is about getting the road done for the children. All we are asking is for the relevant authorities to come in again and see the state of the road and get something done about it very urgently. We have people who come out of this community who are headmistresses, nurses, doctors and attended those same schools at the back there and when it’s done we are being forgotten and this area isn’t remembered,” Wilson added, while stating that they have more than 700 children from their community and the surrounding areas that attend the schools.
Despite sporadic downpours, the parents remained steadfast as they marched along the road. They said they were going to be as adamant as they were yesterday throughout the week as they intend on protesting until they are addressed by the relevant authorities. “If nothing happens during the week, we will protest the following week and will keep it up until they get justice. We are doing this for our children. It’s not about us, it’s about our children and their safety,” another parent, who identified himself as Dukhram, said.
The journey along the road took more than an hour and the parents explained that sometimes their children would have to trek back and forth in the searing heat and sometimes in the rainfall.
Despite their efforts to do rehabilitation works on the road themselves by using builders’ waste and other materials, the residents explained that they are of the opinion that only comprehensive works on the road by the authorities can change its state for the better.
They also explained that while there are other roads that can be used by certain vehicles, if the government does not want to expend a lot of money to fix the main thoroughfare then work can be done on the smaller roads to allow them to be able to facilitate the unhindered flow of large vehicles.
“This is the state of the road. It’s terrible and we are trying but when the rain falls it full up all over and it becomes a pond. We are fed up and the urgency caused us to come out today. The bus that is contracted to bring the children into the school does not even want to go because of how dangerous it is and we can’t vex with them. But we can’t ask our children to walk three miles to the school and when they get there they are tired and then they have to walk out back,” Wilson added.
Because of the condition of the road, fares for transportation into the area have also significantly increased and the residents explained that sometimes taxis refuse to travel on the road.
They added that they are going to block the smaller roads in the community so that persons, including ministry officials that often visit the schools at the back, will be forced to use the same road that their children are being forced to use.
“Community members have brought in sand and did a lot of work, going into our own pockets to ensure vehicles don’t stick or anything and we are going to block the other access roads so persons have to feel what they feel. All we want is for them to do the road for the children’s sake. We seeing it right in front of we and we are not going to wait until something bad happens to talk,” Dukhram emphasised.