Over 3 000 parents and volunteers in the Western Cape are playing a proactive role in keeping children safe, by walking groups of children to school and back.
The provincial Department of Community Safety launched the Walking Bus initiative as a pilot project back in 2016. Since then, the project has drawn support from thousands of people across the province.
It currently runs in around 80 areas, most of which are affected by gang-related activities. Participants are trained in conflict resolution, first aid and road safety to enable them to deal with challenging situations. They also receive high-visibility jackets and radios that allow them to be in contact with other volunteers and law enforcement officers.
Sylvia Visagie is a Walking Bus volunteer in the Happy Valley community on the Cape Flats.
“It can be dangerous for our children to walk to school, especially in the mornings. We have had incidents in which criminals hide in the bushes and then rob the children of their school shoes and bags. So we needed to do something about it. Now that we have started the Walking Bus initiative and have received training, our children are kept safe when they walk to and from school,” said Visagie.
Gershwin Williams, a learner at the Happy Valley Primary School, said she is happy that her school principal decided to become involved in the project.
“Every day we hear of people getting raped or murdered and it can’t go on like this. So the Walking Bus is now a part of our lives and the principal made a good decision to bring it in for our safety,” said Williams.
The Department of Community Safety said that the South African Police Service has reported a remarkable difference in the rate of petty crime in areas where the Walking Bus project is active.
The initiative has also proven effective in preventing children from bunking school or engaging in unhealthy behaviour.
*Schools, parents or volunteers in the Western Cape who are interested in starting the Walking Bus project in their communities, may contact Jemayne Andrews on 021 483 5326.