Bakkie crash: Parents pleaded for bus

2014-05-13 10:23
Rescue officials work to retrieve a bakkie which had plunged into a damn in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. (ER24)

Rescue officials work to retrieve a bakkie which had plunged into a damn in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. (ER24)

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Thobani Ngqukunga, Nalini Naidoo, The Witness

Pietermaritzburg - Parents of the pupils who died and were injured in Monday's bakkie accident had been asking for help to get their children to school since January.

But, they charge, their pleas to the education department fell on deaf ears, forcing them to use the private bakkie of a member of the community to transport their children 10km to the nearest schools.

Bakkies are not used by the small businesses contracted to the government to provide school transport, in line with the National Road Traffic Act.

Parent Buyisiwe Phungula, whose child was among those who plummeted into the dam but survived, said had the department responded to their application for a bus, the accident would not have happened.

In 2012 the provincial government banned the use of bakkies to transport school children following the deaths of six pupils when the bakkie they were travelling in overturned on the road between Bulwer and Underberg.

KZN MEC for transport Willies Mchunu repeated notice of the ban in November that year when 12 pupils were injured on the Edendale Road when the bakkie in which they were travelling collided with a taxi.

On Monday, the transport MEC urged parents to prioritise the safety of their children.

Mchunu said the KZN departments of transport and education were currently providing transport to about 22 000 pupils who attended more than 210 schools, and had given out 9 000 bicycles to pupils in both rural and urban communities.

He said they would extend these services to more communities in the months ahead.

DA provincial spokesperson for education, Tom Stokes, said overcrowded vehicles arrived at schools without intervention from principals or teachers who witnessed them.

“Until school leaders take responsibility for the children under their care, including dangerous behaviour to and from school, and alert parents to the danger their children are subjected to, this kind of tragedy will continue to occur,” Stokes said.

Linda Hlongwa, who chaired the previous education portfolio committee in the provincial legislature, said there had been ongoing discussion in the committee over the need for greater regulation of the transport of pupils.

This needed to be dealt with as a priority by both the incoming education and transport portfolio committees.

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters on Monday also called for tighter controls on transporting pupils.

“Tighter control, especially at licensing of scholar transport and inspectorate levels, has to be considered,” she said.

With additional reporting by Sapa.

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