The APNU+AFC seems determined to lose the next elections. You would have presumed that since a date for elections has been named, that the government would have been more circumspect in its actions and try to avoid projecting the wrong image.
But the government dropped its guard and failed to take the necessary steps to avoid projecting the wrong image. It continues to make careless mistakes even when it has good intentions.
Last Friday, the government distributed fifty bicycles to school children. The intention of the government was good. It wanted to publicize this gesture and so it posted the photographs on social media.
The ethnic balance of the group receiving the bicycles is not something that the government should be proud about; it is certainly not something that they should have been advertising all over social media months before a general and regional elections. It sends the wrong message to the public, a message which can cost the government votes in the next elections.
It is understandable that when the government distributes these cycles in certain areas there is bound to be some ethnic imbalance based upon the demographics of the area. However, the government has to be mindful of not seeming to be casual towards this issue. It should therefore have taken precautions to ensure that distribution, in areas such as Georgetown, is more balanced.
No one is accusing the government here of ethnic bias. The contention is a lack of sensitivity.
The photographs indicate that most of the students were donning uniforms of Georgetown-based schools. This is interesting because very few secondary school students these days ride to school. It is not that having a bicycle is a luxury. It is far from a luxury. It is just that a child would prefer to catch public transport to get to school than to face the tantalizing of his or her peers if seen riding to school.
The other main factor which accounts from the small number of children riding to school in the city is the danger of doing so. The way some minibuses and motor car drivers use the roadways would cause most parents to be scared of having their children ride to school.
The roads in the city are much too narrow. Motorists drive much too recklessly to allow for any large numbers of parents encouraging their children to ride to school. Even in the countryside many children do not cycle to school because of the speeding vehicles on the public roads where most of the schools are located.
Most low income parents prefer to have their children walk some distance to get to the main roads to catch a bus to get to school, rather than buy a $15,000 bicycle for them to ride directly from home to school. The parents simply are afraid of having their children ride to school in the city. It is too dangerous.
The government is soliciting their bicycles on the grounds that students will use them to get to school. In the rural and interior areas this may work fine but not on the coast. The reckless use of the roads by motorists makes parents nervous about their children using public transport much less having to ride a bicycle on some of our public roads.
The government should take a step back and examine just what it is doing. The government should have gone into a rural area and distribute those bicycles since more rural students are likely to use bicycles rather than city school students.
In its rush for a photo opportunity to show that it is helping children, the government has gifted more political ammunition to the Opposition. The Opposition now has further grounds to be critical of the ethnic balance of the cycles’ distribution process. The government should have been more careful. It should have understood by now that appearances matter and therefore it should have taken steps to ensure that the recipients were more ethically balanced.
But the bigger issue is the encouragement of children to ride bicycles to school in a city in which the roads are extremely dangerous. Children lives matter just as much as getting them to school.
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