UG social work students pursue safer road environment project

Stabroek News
April 21, 2001

Eight students studying for a Diploma in Social Work at the University of Guyana put theory into practice on Thursday by installing a zebra crossing in central Georgetown.
The group, in their final semester of study, undertook the project as part of their course concentrating on "Loud Traffic Noise and Speeding in Minibuses".
It is hoped that the zebra crossing, placed outside the Magistrate's Court in collaboration with the Guyana Police Force Traffic Division, will help to control traffic flow and improve pedestrian safety.
Julian Haines, 46-year-old Wortmanville resident and member of the group, told Stabroek News yesterday that the activity was "a practical project designed to enhance the community."
"We have been researching minibus speeding and noise pollution and how it affects the community and wider society," Haines continued. "Our findings have been that there is widespread speeding, more so with the RZ model minibuses."
"These are very hi-tech, Japanese-produced models which are very sensitive. If the drivers cannot handle the vehicles or do not have the experience to control them, there is obvious endangerment to commuters," Haines pointed out.
Noise represents another hazard according to the group, Haines explained, and there is "a detrimental effect to the hearing of passengers" that is caused by the loud music characteristic to some minibuses.
Haines suggested commuters should insist that the conductor or driver keep the music volume to a minimum.
"Not only can it affect hearing, it can also prevent you from getting your stop," said Haines.
"One problem is that schoolchildren like the faster, noisier minibuses," Haines elaborated. "They feel more thrilled with the speed and happier with loud music being played. We therefore need more education within schools to sensitise the children to the dangers involved."
Haines said that the UG group, headed by Aubrey Benn, is working in conjunction with the road safety activists, Women In Black, and both groups were "looking forward to legislation to bring in changes and more measures to create a safer environment on the roads and in minibuses."
"We need stricter penalties, depending on the nature of the offence," he said.
Haines, who is studying part-time while working at the power company, GPL, and his colleagues are looking forward to using their newly-acquired skills in social work in the wider community.
"I feel that social work in Guyana has to become more community based," he noted.
"We can also take the problems we experience here and the ways in which we deal with them here and educate people abroad. Many countries have problems dealing with racial issues, accommodating different cultures into one country. There is no country in the world which has only one people," Haines remarked.
"We, as Guyanese, can take our cultural experience and educate others around the world. In this way, we can help build a global community - by a process of integration and increased understanding between peoples."