Ensuring that pupils arrive safely at school has now become a daily routine for parents and residents of Lentegeur West after they joined the new Walking Bus in the area.
The Department of Community Safety launched the walking bus initiative with Community Safety MEC Dan Plato in Lentegeur West, on Thursday October 12.
At 7am, residents met at Lentegeur civic centre with their yellow bibs, ready to take on their task.
Mr Plato, Lentegeur police station members, law enforcement officials and Ward 76 councillor Gouwa Timm accompanied primary and high school pupils from Springdale Primary, West End Primary, Aloe Junior and Aloe High to school. They also made an unexpected turn at Lentegeur train station.
Aloe Junior deputy principal April Strauss said it was a great initiative as gangsterism was rife in the area. “I usually stand at the gate in the mornings, so when I saw the pupils running and grouping up this morning, I thought that there was a shooting, but instead it was the walking bus,” he said, adding that he believed the initiative would also help prevent late-coming and bunking.
Community worker Anne Africa, a member of the walking bus, said the initiative would ensure that pupils arrived safely at school. “When the guys shoot in the area, it affects the youngsters going to school. Now, parents can have a sense of relief. We will be standing on various corners, picking the (children) up and walking them to school,” she said.
Another resident who is part of the walking bus, Maymoena Pillay, said it was wonderful to see residents coming out in numbers to join the initiative.
“It is time we as residents do something about the crime in our area, and it is good to see that parents have come onboard. I am glad we went around the train station because pupils are engaging in drug activity and are bunking at the station,” she said.
Mr Plato said the residents would wait for the children at strategic spots, such as Merrydale Avenue, in the mornings and afternoons and would walk with pupils to and from school.
“It is important to create safe spaces for pupils. The walking bus membership is open to all community members who will be assisting us to ensure all scholars arrive at school and return home safely,” he said.
Ms Timm encouraged more parents and residents to get involved in the walking bus. “In other areas, the walking bus is successful. A perfect example is in Lentegeur East. They have 120 members and are still growing. They have dedicated members who are active in the mornings and evenings,” she said.
There are five other walking buses in Mitchell’s Plain – Beacon Valley, Tafelsig, Eastridge, Lentegeur East and Woodlands.
According to the Department of Community Safety, 32 areas launched walking buses in the previous financial year. “There is a remarkable difference in the streets of the various neighbourhoods on a daily basis, as the perpetrators of violence tend to keep a low profile while the walking bus members are within close proximity,” Mr Plato said.
He said correspondence and telephone calls had been received from schools and residents who noticed the visibility of the walking bus groups. He added that the walking bus groups would be embarking on various training programmes this financial year in conjunction with the Department of Transport and Public Works and the City of Cape Town. “The department of transport has arranged the necessary road safety training workshops for all the groups while the City of Cape Town will be assisting with the first aid training workshops and the training of pedestrian crossing traffic control assistants,” he said.