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Our View: Free transport for kids would be good but state can’t afford it

IT IS DIFFICULT to say who is more to blame for the dispute caused by the government’s decision to make students pay bus fares – the students or their parents? Would the ridiculous, secondary school students’ organisation have called for a boycott of classes for one period on Thursday if it did not have the support of the group representing parents’ associations?

The call for a one-period boycott of classes by an organisation of teenagers is preposterous to say the least. Since when is a bunch of immature school-kids allowed to decide whether to attend classes and issue diktats that all students are supposed to follow? Worse still, the education ministry appears to be sitting on the fence, avoiding taking a clear stance against the boycott. Surely it must issue a circular expressing its strong disapproval of such shows of indiscipline and disregard for school rules by students.

All this would have been unnecessary if the parents’ associations adopted a responsible stance instead of encouraging militant union behaviour by their teenage children. But even if these associations were controlled by people with a union mindset, individual parents should be telling their children that they cannot expect everything free from the state, especially as it has no money and could not afford to provide free transport. Most school-children are sensible enough to have accepted this, if it came from their parents.

Instead the organised parents have been encouraging the attitude that it is everyone’s right to demand things for free from a bankrupt state. It does not need to be said that the majority of the political parties, advertising their irresponsibility, have criticised the government’s decision, encouraging the freeloader mentality. Was it too much to expect someone to stand up and plainly say that ‘although free transport for students would be good, our state, at present cannot afford to provide it’.

Perhaps this is too sensible a line for our political parties to take. In fact, even the pro-government parties have avoided making this clear, blaming the troika and the MoU for the introduction of bus fares. The truth however is that the troika has sought to reduce public transport’s sizeable annual losses and the government decided that the best way to do this was to scrap free travel on the buses. What was the alternative given the precarious state of public finances? Would it be better not to have public transport?

It is depressing that even after we have bankrupted the state we still expect not to pay for public services and encourage this mentality in tomorrow’s citizens.

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