The Walking Bus project has officially been integrated as a City of Cape Town project, complete with a new logo and new equipment for the 1 500 volunteers already recruited to the initiative.
Mayor Dan Plato started the project while he was still the provincial minister for community safety in 2016.
It now officially falls under the City’s banner, following a launch held in Lentegeur on Wednesday 16 October.
Mitchell’s Plain and surrounding communities were invited to the launch. It will be followed by similar events in neighbouring communities.
Separate events are being held because a big enough venue to accommodate all 1 500 volunteers could not be found.
Volunteers received packages which included bibs, a stipend and road signs that say “Caution, bright futures ahead”, “The future is walking at 4km per hour” and “Slow down, bright futures crossing”.
“I could see the tears in some of your eyes when you heard about the stipend. I must remind you that this is not a salary,” said Plato to the volunteers. “We are going to require you to do more.”
Plato says the volunteers have been doing a good job and encourages them to be active in and around the school premises.
A parent, who asked not to be identified, says she is happy to see the volunteers assisting children at the school.
“As mothers, we stand here. There are various occasions where children get dropped off and run over the road. It is dangerous. There is a big need for this,” she says.
The initiative has already been launched in 55 areas across the metropole with an additional 20 areas earmarked for the next academic year.
The Walking Bus programme helps to ensure that school children have safe passage to and from school.
“We saw the positive impact of this project as one of the flagship campaigns aimed at keeping our young people safe,” says Plato.
“We formulated plans to move the initiative to the City to continue the good work. Making our communities safer requires everyone to be involved and we are pleased that so many community members have shown an interest in being part of this project. The Walking Bus campaign has seen thousands of parents become volunteers.”
There are active walking bus groups across the greater Mitchell’s Plain, Wesbank, Manenberg, Mfuleni, Nyanga, Langa, Khayelitsha, Hanover Park, Athlone, Retreat and Lavender Hill, Elsies River, Eerste River, Heideveld, Clark Estate and Ravensmead, among others.
Manenberg representitives Rozelle Jacobs, Nadia De Vries and Shihaam Mosaval say they have a mixture of new members and those who have been busy for the past few weeks.
“There are children who are in danger. They hang from dirt trucks and run across the roads. If they slip and fall, they can hurt themselves. We will bring order and safety when we stand at the pedestrian crossings. We will also educate them on how to cross the roads safely,” says De Vries.
For Constance Dirk of the Blomvlei Walking Bus, the initiative is needed in their community. The group assists three schools.
“Before we became official, we were already walking the children to school. Many children run across the roads or get robbed and hurt on their way to school. This is good for Hanover Park,” she says.
Mfuleni Walking Bus chairperson Sindiswa Mngqibisa says they currently have 40 members and work with nine schools. She says they were happy to receive new bibs and kits for their work in the community.
Wesbank Walking Bus chairperson Edith Van Wyk says she is proud to be part of the pilot project.
“We were the first and are the best functioning walking bus with 120 members. We are a diverse group consisting of both men and women. We are also the first to have adopted a high school. We have three primary and one high school now,” she says.
“Since we have been active, there has been an improvement in attendance and pass rates. The first year we adopted the high school, there was a pass rate went from 64% to 94%.”
Plato thanked the parents and grandparents for offering their time.
“Behind this simple (of escorting children) there is a significant meaning: adults are protecting the potential of these future leaders by ensuring their safe journey to and from school in their neighbourhood. These young people have untapped potential and are our future leaders, lawyers, doctors, artisans, musicians, sportspersons and so much more.”
The Walking Bus initiative is a mechanism used to implement and ensure young people are able to go to school, feeling confident about their safety.
“In some of our communities, getting an education is more challenging as our youth live in areas affected by crime and gang violence. The volunteers are residents who care deeply about their communities and we are grateful for their involvement. This project will see an expansion into new communities in Phase 2 which commences in the 2020 academic year,” says Plato.
“The rollout of the additional law enforcement that was budgeted for when I came into office last year November will continue, and these officers will complement the Walking Bus programme and increase safety where possible.”