The minibus culture contributes to educational decline

Stabroek News
June 10, 2001

Dear Editor,

On Friday 27th April, 2001, at approximately 10:20 hours at the Avenue of the Republic and America Street, I had cause to inform the driver of a No. 41 minibus of my annoyance at a 'hip hop bang bang' which came from the amplified boom boxes in the side panels of the bus I had just disembarked from. The driver emphatically stated that he had no problem with the 'F' words which were regularly repeated in the stanzas of the loud cacophony of sounds and referred me to the conductor. He in turn told the driver 'you got time wide' ? and to me he stated, 'I buy the CD and if ya want yu could report it ? look a Police right deh'. I went my way since I am convinced that most policemen are indifferent to such complaints.

The previous afternoon, Thursday 26th April, 2001, I observed a conductor on a Number 41 mini bus dispose of an empty plastic bag and straw out of the minibus window. On asking him if that is the way it is done, his response was "I do this on me own behalf," ? whatever that statement meant.

These examples demonstrate the level of behavioural attitude and mentality of a large majority of our population as it relates to a number of issues on the environment.

I found it strange that I did not hear any of the politicians on the recent election party platforms address any of these environmental issues which to my mind were priorities. The minibus culture which has developed over the years has contributed in great measure to the reduced performance level of our students in the education system. A number of our students who are exposed to and embrace the Boom Boom culture, strive not to excel at school because of peer pressure, as such excellence would put them ahead of their peers who are under?achievers.

I am entitled to ask where does the cliche of 'level playing field,' so often bandied about, exist when applied to a situation where a passenger can enjoy or contribute to a smoke free ride in a bus but not a noise free one without all the vulgarity of the Fword and stanzas like 'Tight, tight, tight like a virgin'. If the freedom of religion is indeed enshrined in our constitution, how is a passenger to enjoy such a freedom if he/she by the lack of enforceable legislation is to be subjected to such expletives because he/she dares to travel on road surface transport which is open to the public for hire. This practice is the most visible and blatant form of exclusiveness, discrimination and marginalisation experienced by those members of the public who because of their lifestyle prefer quiet and noise free surroundings in order to indulge in reading a book or just plain taking a snooze.

Such annoyance now referred to worldwide as noise pollution has repeatedly been brought to the attention of the Ministry of Health and Environmental agencies in Guyana by International Health Agencies. A recent BBC programme 'News Around the World' on 6.2.2001 alluded to a situation where children from two preparatory schools in the San Francisco area have been identified as suffering from hearing impairment attributed to the noise of jet aircraft from the nearby San Francisco airport and that the restaurants in San Francisco area are now graded according to the noise level therein. The noise exposure level from a passing jet is no more or less than the amount of decibels one experiences in an area of 300 cubic feet of a steaming minibus with minimum ventilation and the 'Boom Boom Bang Bang' noise from amplified speakers on normal and extended after school minibus rides by school children in Georgetown.

I state categorically that the minibus is a contributory factor to the decline of our educational standards. From what sort of home environment would a student originate whose parents see nothing wrong with her daughter or son travelling in a bus named 'X?Rated' or 'Bedroom Bully'? Are such names an example of freedom of expression or a prime example of degeneracy? I am aghast about a situation which exists at a certain West Berbice Secondary School, where not one of thirty to fifty students in the CXC class of 2001 had, in the view of the headmaster, reached an acceptable standard of performance to have entered for the recent CXC examination. This I consider a national emergency and I call for a Presidential Commission on Education to be set up as a matter of urgency.

Another prime area of concern is that of the indiscipline in schools. It is evident that a great deal of this attitude originates from the home and is also present in the minibus environment where most of the crews are unkempt and exhibit a 'do wah yo wan with me' syndrome. One never sees a student in a minibus engrossed in a school book or doing a crossword puzzle, but there is a regular call for more bass and volume. There must be a code of conduct, both for students and teachers, which demands zero tolerance. Parents must encourage their children whose behaviour is exemplary and who come from a disciplined home to distance themselves from those children at school who lack deportment and do not comply with the code of conduct. It is for this reason, in part, that the Guyana Cricket Board has thought it vital to expose young cricketers to an academy where etiquette, social graces and decorum are taught, so that when they socialize at functions, particularly overseas, they would not be an embarrassment to their country.

By the same token one may ask whether the present minibus culture is deemed an embarrassment to our country and to the tourist industry and is it an admirable reflection of our citizenry? Are the salutations by minibus touts, variously ? 'old lady', 'uncle', 'grannie', 'mother', 'red girl',' shortman', 'big man' 'baby', and the 'sups' acceptable to the members of the tourism authorities who are so visible in the media. And yet there is a strong reluctance by the authorities to bring some form of decency to the minibus environment by placing all aspects of its operations under the Public Utilities Commission.

We are sacrificing the future of our youths and the development of our country on the altar of rapaciousness, hooliganism, plagiarism of the music industry and obscenity.

The education system is in serious crisis and the implications and ramifications for the future of our dear land are serious. Should the problems in our two main industries worsen we would evidently have achieved an egalitarian society, but at the level of ignorance, illiteracy, irrationality and a complete lack of logic.

Yours faithfully,

Aubrey Alexander