Launched by the provincial Department of Community Safety in 2016, The Walking Bus initiative is making sure that children who walk to school are safe. Parents and volunteers in the Western Cape neighbourhoods are playing a proactive role in keeping children safe, by walking groups of children to school and back.
The initiative currently runs in 80 areas, most of which are affected by gang-related activities. Participants are trained in conflict resolution, first aid and road safety to enable them to deal with challenging situations. They also receive high-visibility jackets and radios that allow them to be in contact with other volunteers and law enforcement officers.
“It can be dangerous for our children to walk to school, especially in the mornings. We have had incidents in which criminals hide in the bushes and then rob the children of their school shoes and bags. Now that we have started the Walking Bus initiative and have received training, our children are kept safe when they walk to and from school,” said Sylvia Visagie who is a Walking Bus volunteer in the Happy Valley community on the Cape Flats.
Gershwin Williams, a learner at the Happy Valley Primary School, said she is happy that her school principal decided to become involved in the project. “Every day we hear of people getting raped or murdered and it can’t go on like this. So the Walking Bus is now a part of our lives and the principal made a good decision to bring it in for our safety,” said Williams.
The Department of Community Safety said that the South African Police Service has reported a remarkable difference in the rate of petty crime in areas where the Walking Bus project is active. The initiative has also proven effective in preventing children from bunking in school or engaging in unhealthy behaviour.