New Signs

The Ministry of Education has followed through with an initiative to ensure the safety and well-being of children who commute on the nation’s school buses.

In December, a workshop was held with school bus drivers and conductors to address issues of safety and expected behaviour of students and bus workers while on the buses, focal point for the Child Friendly School Initiative, Desiree Antonio said on OBSERVER AM.

One of the decisions coming out of that workshop was for new signage to be featured on the buses, she said.

As such, last Friday, the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the Antigua & Barbuda Transport Board, launched the new signage – depicting students being ready, respectful and responsible – on the school buses, the education officer explained.

“We recognise that for children to really learn and develop as they ought to, they must have an environment that is conducive to learning; it must be safe and protected, ” Antonio said.

“…If children feel threatened within the learning environment, they will not concentrate on learning, ” she added.

In 2007, the Ministry of Education adopted the Child Friendly School Initiative, which is the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund’s (UNICEF) framework for fostering environments that facilitate learning. This initiative forms part of this positive behaviour management and safety strategy.

Explaining the process in which the designs of the signs were chosen, Antonio said that students were encouraged to participate in an art competition hosted by the ministry last February. The top three signs were then selected.

“It is them, really, expressing themselves through the artwork that we figured this is one way that their voices can be heard, ” the education officer said of the decision to include the students in the initiative.

Antonio is optimistic that other workshops such as these will be held in the future.

Other plans include public sensitisation on the need for schools being child friendly, secondary school teacher-training in positive behaviour management in September, and recorded interviews focusing on the school environment.

“Hopefully, we will be working closely with other stakeholders to train even our teachers as to how they respond to instances of child abuse, ” the education officer said.

She continued, “Many times, persons are at a loss. They see a child who depicts or manifests signs of abuse and then they do not know how to respond. Whom should we contact? How do we deal with this? Do we have that legal responsibility to report it?”

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