Walking bus steps up

2016-09-13 06:00
The Walking Bus Project was launched in Hanover Park on Tuesday 6 September. Parents of pupils and residents of Hanover Park accompanied children to the 13 schools in the area.

The Walking Bus Project was launched in Hanover Park on Tuesday 6 September. Parents of pupils and residents of Hanover Park accompanied children to the 13 schools in the area.

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The Walking Bus Project was launched in Hanover Park on Tuesday last week.

Along with the Department of Community Safety, parents came out in their droves with traffic officials, police and law enforcement officers on Tuesday 6 September.

The launch was received with much support from the community, showing off great numbers on its first day out.

Dan Plato, the provincial minister of community safety, says this initiative entails members of the broader community or parents volunteering to walk groups of children to school and back home in the afternoon.

“The walking bus provides for peace of mind for parents – specifically those working and concerned about their children’s safety. Children are walking to school without supervision during the morning and afternoon; they are being bullied and harassed by gangs. This project aims to combat that,” he says.

The Department of Community Safety provides the kits for the members of the walking bus, such as their bibs and whistles, and once training is complete and they are registered with the department as a division of the neighbourhood watch, they will be geared up with jackets and boots.

The community can get involved with this project on a voluntary basis.

“As this is currently on a voluntary basis there are existing methods where the department takes their hand and supports them further with potential projects with the possibility of a small amount of funding each month, however – very importantly – this depends on the registration process of the walking bus team and further training,” he explains.

Plato stressed to the Hanover Park community – most of whom were women – that the project needs to be sustained in months to come.

“We want our parents to take a keen interest in the well-being of their community and its children. This initiative was started after looking at situations in specifically gang-ridden communities and Hanover Park was identified as one of those communities,” he says.

The idea of the project is to up-command non-working parents in the communities to join the project.

“They can become the catalysts for safety in their communities. With more parents becoming involved, that means there will be more eyes on the street, increasing vigilance,” he adds.

Plato says they have partnered with law enforcement agencies to assist with the project as well.

The initial launch of the walking bus was held three months ago in Wesbank and started with 150 members covering four schools. Having fast become popular, the team grew to nearly 300 members within three days.

“Children are excited and eager to walk to school as part of this initiative and members of the walking bus keep a fierce eye on their streets with children attempting to play truant or those who purely choose to stay home without their parents’ permission. The walking bus also acts as a deterrent to those would-be perpetrators of crime and as a preventative measure for our high school children who attempt to take a turn in the wrong direction,” Plato says.

Philippi police acting station commander Lieutenant-Colonel Desmond Laing says the police will work towards an integrated approach with the walking bus project.

“Before the project started, all our sector commanders are visiting schools in the morning and in the afternoon. They have registers to sign when they visit the schools and this effectively shows visibility at our schools. We are working with all 13 schools in the area,” he says.

Laing has also urges parents to come on board with the project and work at sustaining it.

“Our launch turnout was really good but I really hope it continues to grow and not fade out. We want our parents to become involved,” he says.

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