A 12-year-old pupil from Limassol who was not allowed to board a bus because she did not have the money for the fare was granted a bus pass for the rest of the school year on Wednesday by Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos.
The girl’s brother Orfeas Pitsillides told Alpha TV on Wednesday afternoon that the bus driver would not let her on the bus on Tuesday afternoon because she did not have 70 cents to cover the bus fare.
According to Limassol Buses (Emel)’s website, a single student ticket costs €0.75.
“He didn’t give her a second chance, didn’t tell her to bring him the money the next day. He just left her outside of her school”.
Pitsillides said his sister had been carrying over 20 books as it was the first day of the school year and since none of the other children offered to lend her the money for the ticket, she had no other choice but to walk home, eight to nine kilometres.
He insinuated that the bus driver’s reaction was racially motivated as the girl is half-Jamaican. “It’s a shame we live in a society with so few people of colour. It was her first day of school, she went in happy and came back sad,” he said.
In a post on social media, Karousos condemned racial discrimination of any kind, saying that the ministry has “given clear instructions to bus companies about handling such incidents during the first days of school”.
He also said he will personally meet the girl and her family, to grant her a bus pass for the rest of the school year.
Pitsillides said that when the family reported the incident to the school, they were told that nothing could be done as it did not take place on school grounds – but in a written statement later in the day Emel said no complaint was made to them.
“As Emel serves dozens of school routes daily in both urban and rural areas, it was extremely difficult to ascertain these claims based on just a report on live television,” it read.
The statement added that the family was then contacted and an investigation launched based on both the pupil’s and the driver’s accounts of the incident.
Emel added that drivers are instructed to be understanding in such cases, emphasising that it had not received any such complaints in its 11 years of service, nor has the driver, who reportedly has 26 years of experience.
Lastly the statement rejected claims of racial discrimination as Emel, and the specific bus route “serves pupils of all ethnicities without making any distinctions”.