‘Buses are too costly’

2017-05-11 14:11
Transporting children to school in bakkies for reward is illegal from Thursday.

Transporting children to school in bakkies for reward is illegal from Thursday. (Ian Carbutt)

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Schools may have to close because of the introduction of a government ban on pupils being transported in bakkies for profit.

That’s the fear of the principal of Fezokuhle Primary School, eight of whose pupils died when the bakkie they were travelling in crashed into a house in Imbali two years ago.

“More than 80% of pupils in this school rely on bakkies to get to school and should government ban them we will be left with no choice but to close the school as there will be very few pupils who will be able to reach school,” the school’s principal, Khulekani Dladla, said.

Despite the 2015 horror accident that left eight pupils dead and several others injured, parents in the area continued to use bakkies for the transportation of their children to school.

“Of course, we are all aware that the bakkies are not safe, but, do we have a choice? Most parents around here are struggling to make ends meet and a bakkie is the only option available to them. Had it not been for bakkies most of the parents would not have been able to send their children to schools as buses and combis are unaffordable,” said Gugu Sengwayo, the chairperson of the school’s governing body (SGB).

Bakkie owners, popularly known as Omalume (uncles), charge parents a fee for transporting their children to and from school.

However, the high number of accidents involving bakkies compelled the Transport Department to come up with regulations barring Omalume from transporting pupils in bakkies for a fee.

Despite the Transport Department’s claim that stakeholders had been made aware Omalume would no longer be allowed to transport pupils in bakkies, both Dladla and Sengwayo said they were not aware of the new regulation.

“What we were told was that Omalume will now have to be registered in the same way as minibus taxis are.

“No one told us that they will no longer be allowed to operate. Today is the first time I have heard of this” Sengwayo said on Wednesday.

While some parents at the school seem to have come to terms with the risk of allowing their children to be transported in unsafe bakkies, Bhotsotso Mahlaba, whose two children, Maluleki and Siyathemba, were badly injured in the 2015 accident, said he can no longer afford to take the risk.

“These bakkies are meant to transport goods and not children. After that accident, I just could not let my children go anywhere near a bakkie,” he said.

Mahlaba used his life savings to buy a car that he now uses to transport his two children to school.

“Financially, I was not ready to buy a car but was compelled to find a way of buying one just to make sure that my children are safe,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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