Schools report low student turnout amid transport strike

JTA President Leighton Johnson; St. Elizabeth taxi operator, Elton; St. Mary commuter, Pauline; and Kirk Brown, President of the Eastern St. Thomas Taxi Association
By Kimone Witter/Nakinskie Robinson     
The Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) says some schools have reported a low turnout among their student population due to the protest by transport operators.
Thousands of commuters across the island were left stranded Monday morning as public transport operators acted on plans to withdraw service.
JTA President Leighton Johnson says he has received confirmation of the low turnout from four of the six education regions. 
"What has been reported [is] that some schools within the Corporate Area have seen unusually low student turnout. Schools across the other regions - regions two or three, and four - have also indicated that student population has been low for today. Additionally, schools and administrators have indicated, too, that several teachers have called in indicating that they are unable to make it to work because of the unavailability of regular transportation and taxis." 
Mr. Johnson said some high school administrators have made alternative arrangements to assist students sitting external exams. 
"We have reports that there are some schools that have arranged for private bus companies to assist in transporting the CAPE students as well as those who are doing NCTVET assessment, to schools in regions two and three at this time," he told Radio Jamaica News
On Sunday, Radio Jamaica News received word that a protest planned by taxi and bus operators on numerous routes was in the making.
The major withdrawal comes as transport operators say police continue to target members and they are frustrated.
St. Elizabeth taxi operator, Elton, told Radio Jamaica News that the impending demerit points system under the Road Traffic Act under review, is unreasonable. 
He urged the government to reassess the provision for automatic suspension of licences of drivers who accumulate 10 or more demerit points for various traffic violations.
"You know that taxi operators being targeted mostly by police. So what we are asking government to do, if they can review this law and revoke it, because you know that if you do driving as a job and you get 10 points from your licence, you don't have a job to do," he contended. 
He also complained about inadequate infrastructure at the transport centre, arguing that there is no covering, which forces taxi operators to continually run their air conditioning system to keep waiting passengers cool.
As part of the protest, roads were blocked in Stewart Town, Lawrence Tavern and other parts of St. Andrew.
The service withdrawal also affected movement in downtown Kingston as well as Spanish Town and Linstead, in St. Catherine.
There was little to no movement from bus and taxi operators across some major towns and parish capitals including, Santa Cruz and Black River, in St. Elizabeth, Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland, Port Antonio, Portland and in Brown's Town, St. Ann.
Some roadways were also blocked with fallen trees and other debris leading to Malvern from Santa Cruz.
In St. Mary, one commuter, Pauline, took a swipe at the transport operators' decision to demonstrate. 
"Everybody have a right to voice them opinion, but don't try to inconvenience others who are trying to go to work. We are not the government, we are just people trying to work to make our ends meet, so that's unfair for us," she complained.
Scores of commuters, including students, were also left stranded at major town centres in St. Thomas on Monday morning.
However, the withdrawal of service by some disgruntled taxi operators is over the lack of compensation for damage to their vehicles during the ongoing road rehabilitation work.
The taxi operators told Radio Jamaica News that several of their vehicles have been badly damaged and remain at the garage.
Kirk Brown, President of the Eastern St. Thomas Taxi Association, said the operators have no issue with the demerit points provision in the Road Traffic Act. 

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