Pupils forced to walk to school

2013-07-20 00:00

SCORES of city pupils are having to walk long distances to and from school after a dispute over increased taxi fares turned nasty, the principal of Linpark High said yesterday.

Nello Schreuder said the Zwartkop Taxi Association had recently sent a letter to him to inform his pupils that their fares would increase from R5 to R9.

The letter written to Schreuder reads: “Linpark principal, greetings. We as Zwartkop Taxi Committee would like to ask from you to pass on the massage [sic] to the children from your school that every morning there [sic] must go to our rank at ­Retief Street for their transport to school.

“The fees are R9 per person to and fro.

“In the afternoons our taxis will pick them from school.

“The fares [R9] TO AND FRO are the same.”

However, the pupils do not want to use the Retief Street rank because it is inconvenient and unsafe.

Weekend Witness visited the area and found that those most affected were the pupils who live in Imbali and Edendale who take two taxis to school.

But pupils who tried to use local buses instead said they were intimidated by four big men when they approached a nearby bus stop.

Pupils at the school yesterday said that even parents who offered lifts to pupils were told in no uncertain terms that the taxis were the only means of transport for the children.

Schreuder said a bus driver was threatened at gunpoint by angry taxi owners earlier this week.

“We have involved the services of the Prestbury police to safeguard our pupils after school,” he said.

The intimidation had had a negative impact on the school — pupils were arriving late and absenteeism had increased.

Pupils staged a protest on Wednesday against the increase.

Domestic workers who work in Prestbury and Boughton had also complained about the steep increase in the taxi fare.

The taxi association’s vice-chairperson, Nyanga Ngcobo, said the ­association was not intimidating ­pupils.

Instead he blamed taxi drivers who had been charging pupils R5 instead of R9.

“We are simply rectifying the mistake because the drivers charged amounts that owners had never agreed upon,” he said.

Regarding intimidation of the bus drivers, Ngcobo claimed buses did not have permits to pick up passengers on the route.

Chairperson of the Schools Governing Bodies Association, Reginald Chiliza, said it was especially cruel as most of the affected pupils came from poor backgrounds.

Chiliza also pleaded with police to do their work to ensure the safety of the pupils.

Msunduzi Taxi Council chairperson Boy Zondi said it was the first time he had heard of intimidation.

“But we are going to consult with the Zwartkop Taxi Association to hear their side,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Senzo Mchunu said he would speak to Schreuder to find out if the taxi dispute had in fact affected attendance and led to absenteeism.

“This is more of a Transport Department issue than education as it is a problem between the taxis and buses,” said Mchunu.

Transport spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said the department was not aware of the problem and would investigate.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan confirmed that the police were asked to patrol the area around the school to ensure that the pupils were safe while travelling to and from their studies.

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