Cape Times

Pupils packed into taxi


GETTING to school wasn’t easy for some children yesterday. Traffic officers on a pupil transport operation in Kraaifonte­in slapped a taxi driver with a R9 000 fine after he was caught transporti­ng 28 schoolchil­dren in a 16-seater minibus.

This as several schoolchil­dren were injured after a taxi crashed in uMlazi, south of Durban.

Safety and security and social services Mayco member JP Smith said as the City’s vehicle impound was full, the taxi’s roadworthi­ness was suspended and the driver fined R9 000 – R3 000 for not having a profession­al driving permit, and R500 for each of the 12 overloaded children.

Smith said an officer then escorted the children to school on foot.

“The focus of these operations is to ensure that vehicles bringing children to school are safe, that the drivers are fit, and that they are obeying the law.

“We believe these operations are important, and we will sustain them because it is imperative that while we make it possible for people to get their children to school, it has to be balanced against their safety,” said Smith.

In uMlazi, emergency service Rescue Care spokespers­on Garrith Jamieson said residents rushed the children who had been hurt in the crash, aged between 6 and 15, to hospital, using private vehicles. “Six children were still at the scene and sustained minor to moderate injuries. They were stabilised before being transporte­d to a nearby hospital,” said Jamieson.

In Nyanga, Equal Education (EE) started its Walking Bus initiative, in which parents walk alongside children who live in the area to ensure they reach their classrooms or closest mode of transport safely.

EE provincial deputy Ntsiki Dlulani said even though some children lived a two-minute walk away from their schools, it was not safe for them to do so. “The children were so excited because they could walk to school without watching their bags. We walked at 6am and then again at 7am in Nyanga and Crossroads.”

Dlulani said about 30 parents participat­ed, and that they would keep the initiative going.

In Wolseley in the Boland, Errie Moller NGK Primary School principal Koos Arendse said he had transporte­d his pupils using a friend’s lorry. Arendse does not have a school bus as the contract for the provincial education department’s vehicle has expired.

Meanwhile, repairs were being made and portable toilets delivered as pupils returned to Protea Primary School in Bonteheuwe­l, which had been vandalised.

The school had its burglar bars and taps stolen, windows broken and toilets damaged. Piping and even the plastic sinks were targeted, with one still stuck in the window of a bathroom.

Principal Mabel Valentine said the school had seven teachers, including herself. She divided her days between teaching and her duties as principal.

“This is in many ways due to our status, as the Western Cape Department of Education has told us almost yearly the school will be closed, and yet we continue.”

Department spokespers­on Paddy Attwell said Protea Primary faced closure in 2012, owing to dwindling numbers, but there was currently no plan to close the school.

“The school has a multigrade class, which includes learners in more than one grade in the same class. This is common in small farm schools that do not qualify for teachers for every grade.

“The department allocates teachers to schools based mainly on learner numbers. This school qualifies for six teachers, based on an enrolment of 219 learners,” he said.

Basic Education Department spokespers­on Elijah Mhlanga said the day was a mix of good and bad nationally. District offices in Gauteng were working around the clock to place children in schools.

“The department had to deal with placing a number of children, but at the majority of schools everything went relatively smoothly,” he said.

An officer then escorted the children to school on foot

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