Pupils dying because of unsafe transport to and from their schools – that was the focus of an emergency meeting attended by Mobility MEC Ricardo Mackenzie, drivers, school staff and community leaders.
The meeting at Hazeldene Primary School, on Thursday May 11, came a week after a memorial service for a 10-year-old Grade 5 girl at the school who was killed in a taxi crash on Swartklip Road on Tuesday April 18.
“When we visited her parents they were aggrieved that no arrests had been made,” said the school’s deputy principal, Colin Adams.
Her death was followed by that of 10-year Rocklands Primary School pupil who was killed when a taxi full of school pupils collided with a BMW, on AZ Berman Drive, on Monday April 24 (“Boy, 10, dies in taxi crash,” Plainsman April 25)
Police failed to respond to repeated requests for comment and an update on the cases by time of publication.
Mr Adams said Merrydale Road, next to the school, is constantly congested with traffic at the end of the school day and conditions are dangerous
“The taxis are using the sidewalk as a means of escaping traffic. These walkways are invaded. Sometimes teachers have to intervene when taxi drivers are drunk,” he said.
“It is a nightmare to see how people drive and how our pupils are being treated. It’s part of our responsibility to take care of pupils. This conversation shouldn’t stop as our children are dying.”
Reverend Franklin Williams, the chairperson of the school’s governing body, said parents had to work and leave their children in the care of drivers, which could lead to problems.
Denver van Aard, from Mitchell’s Plain Scholar Transport, said he had been a driver for 15 years and government officials were blind to the role they played in the community.
“The foundations we’ve laid so far are unseen by officials and government. We are more than just a driver, to some we are counsellors, providers, fathers or mothers,” he said.
“Many times parents can’t make it to school, we step in. For some reason our drivers get blamed for just the bad things. We are a community-based organisation. How dare people say we’re not good drivers when some of us are doing the best we can, following the law? We approach those reckless drivers and hold them accountable.”
Mr Mackenzie said there are zero consequences for school-transport drivers who caused accidents.
“At times drivers don’t have a driver’s licence. We have a serious case of this behaviour which needs to change.”
Residents should comment on walkway projects through the sub-council by the end of May, he said, adding that school principals should report on drivers’ behaviour.
Ashley Arendse, director of Mitchell’s Plain Scholar Transport, said they were trying their best to get drivers to comply with regulations.
“As a unit we want to move this industry forward. We’re serving the underprivileged communities and still we contribute to the economy of our country. We cannot afford to buy a Quantum or 22-seater bus. The driver has but a little to provide for his family, but the person loading taxis with over 30 kids gets away free,” he said.
Carol Mentor, a scholar-patrol officer at Wespoort Primary School, said City Law Enforcement needed to be more visible.
“Sometimes drivers are driven by the money they make rather than the well-being of the pupil. Many times my stop sign is driven out of my hand because they want to take a short-cut in the yellow lane while children are crossing the road,” said Ms Mentor.
Parents should check the drivers and their licences, she said.
Mr Williams said an information session would be held in the coming weeks and all school principals to attend.