When walk­ing to school be­comes a daily chal­lenge

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - ASANDA SOKANYILE

PRIMARY school pupils are walk­ing long dis­tances to school in the dark in many parts of the city. Oth­ers face the daily chal­lenge of mak­ing their way safely along heav­ily con­gested roads.

In Mfu­leni, Wes­bank, Sil­ver­sands and Kuils River, a Week­end Ar­gus team this week witnessed a num­ber of young chil­dren walk­ing through bushy ar­eas be­fore dawn in small groups, and in some cases on their own.

In ar­eas such as Brook­lyn, Mait­land and Mait­land Gar­den Vil­lage, young­sters sim­i­larly mak­ing their way to school through the gloom were barely vis­i­ble to mo­torists and in some places were forced to walk in the road be­cause the side­walks were not paved.

Pupils from Mfu­leni Primary School said they left home as early as 6.30am in or­der to ar­rive at school an hour later in time for por­ridge. They found the walk tir­ing but were not wor­ried about their safety be­cause they usu­ally walked in a group.

“We walk to­gether be­cause we are taught in school that it is al­ways best to walk in large groups,” said Grade 4 pupil Sivuy­ile Mban­gani, 10.

Phumeza Bombo, who lives in Arc, said she walked her son half the way to school ev­ery day but then he had to walk alone for the rest of the way to the bus stop.

“He is in Grade 3 this year, but he can walk alone. He has been walk­ing since last year. He walks for 20 min­utes and then he catches a bus,” she said. “I don’t have a choice be­cause I need to get to work my­self. I do worry about my child, but there is noth­ing I can do at this point,” she said.

Two Grade 8 pupils, both aged 12, from Sil­ver­sands High School, said they walked on their own for more than 45 min­utes from their Mfu­leni homes to get to school ev­ery morn­ing but were not afraid of po­ten­tial attackers.

“We leave the house at seven o’clock and we walk alone but we are not scared. We are used to it al­ready but it is tir­ing. Some­times my un­cle walks with us, though,” said one of the duo.

Western Cape Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment spokesper­son Mil­i­cent Mer­ton con­firmed that the depart­ment only pro­vided trans­port to chil­dren who lived in rural ar­eas and resided 5km away from school.

“The depart­ment’s learner trans­port scheme pro­vides trans­port for about 57 000 learn­ers on 541 routes, in mainly rural ar­eas,” she said.

Ewald Botha, the spokesper­son for Com­mu­nity Safety MEC Dan Plato, said the depart­ment had launched 48 “walk­ing bus” ini­tia­tives in the prov­ince. This was in­tended to cre­ate “a safe and su­per­vised route for learn­ers to and from school ev­ery day with the com­mit­ment and in­volve­ment of the com­mu­nity play­ing a cen­tral part to help cre­ate safer en­vi­ron­ments”.

A spate of vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren in the city mo­ti­vated civil so­ci­ety groups to march to Par­lia­ment ear­lier this week to de­liver a mem­o­ran­dum to Min­is­ter of Po­lice Fik­ile Mbalula and Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Michael Ma­sutha. The march fol­lows a se­ries of aware­ness drives out­side sev­eral courts and po­lice sta­tions. Twenty- three chil­dren have been mur­dered in the Western Cape this year.

asanda.sokanyile@inl.co.za

Chil­dren walk many kilo­me­tres to schools, of­ten in the dark.

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