West breathes sigh of relief as taxi drivers turn out

The new school year got off to a smooth start in western Jamaica yesterday as fears that a planned strike by taxi operators and issues such as a shortage of teachers would have created problems never materialised.

Clayton Smith, principal of Grange Hill Primary School in Westmoreland, told The Gleaner that his students and teachers, some of whom live outside the community, had no issues with transportation.

“Most of our children either walk to school or they have private transportation that they take, so we didn’t have that challenge. The children are out in their numbers and the atmosphere is good, and we’re not expecting any hiccups,” said Smith.

“We are okay with our teachers, as we didn’t have many to replace anyway, and we had gotten some replacements from early on. We also got some school supplies from early in the holiday and we had some in storage here already,” added Smith.

Last week, the leaders of taxi organisations across the island threatened to take strike action to coincide with the start of the new school year to force the Government to grant them a fare increase,

In Montego Bay, where taxi operators would normally be at the forefront of such strike action, things were calm, as they turned out in their usual numbers to transport passengers.

“We were expecting to see a strike this morning, but that did not happen, so my son was off to school pretty early,” said Shoreh Rose, whose child attends St James Preparatory School in Montego Bay. “We had to use public transportation and he got there on time.”

Members of the traffic department of the St James Police Division were out busy across the parish maintaining a smooth flow of traffic.

“We had a strong presence on the streets and we had the full cooperation of the taxi sector, so we had no issues,” said Superintendent Vernon Ellis, the commanding officer for St James, told The Gleaner.

Turning to the issue of a shortage of teachers, Dr Michelle Pinnock, regional director of the Ministry of Education’s Region Four, said an assessment of the situation is being done. The shortage is believed to have resulted from an increasing number of educators landing jobs overseas.

“As it relates to the teacher shortage, we’re collecting the data and we’re going to be doing some analysis on seeing how we can manage that,” said Pinnock. “Concerning the transportation issue, none of my principals or education officers have reported any problems.”


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