Walking bus gets children to school safely

The walking bus ladies from Kewtown. In front, from left, are Venetia Butler,Aziza Hendricks and Mishqua Abrahams.At the back are Najwa Willims, Naeelah Morris,Arelene Adams and Janice Mohamad.

A group of women in Kewtown are getting children safely to school by escorting them to and from school via the walking bus initiative by the City of Cape Town.

The walking bus is a daily routine whereby a group of about 13 women accompany the children to schools in Athlone, among them Alicedale, Athlone North and Kewtown primary schools.

The children are collected on route to the schools and fall in line with the other children.

This service runs from 7.30am and again at 1.30pm when the schools dismiss.

The women walk down Klipfontein Road, into Silvertree Street, then into Sprinkbok Street, and Klapperbos Street.

The walking bus initiative has been rolled out in Athlone, Manenberg, Hanover Park, Lavender Hill, Bishop Lavis, Uitsig, Mitchell’s Plain, and Capricorn and forms part of the Western Cape Government’s Expan-ded Public Works Programme (EPWP) which focuses on skills development to reduce the levels of poverty and unemployment in the province. This includes giving unemployed people access to temporary work, helping unemployed people through skills programmes and work experience, ensuring that unemployed people receive an allowance for any work they have completed as part of the EPWP and enhancing EPWP participants’ chances of finding jobs or starting their own businesses.

Among the women involved in the Athlone walking bus is, Aziza Hendricks, 54, who said the initiative was important because it safeguarded the children from being caught in the crossfire of rival gangs.

“We get the children home as soon as possible to prevent them from being caught up in gang crossfire in the area. The other day there was a shooting outside and we were able to control the children. The walking bus also allows children to get to school on time and not to stand around in the road and shops when they should be at school,” said Ms Hendricks, who said the children are excited about walking with the “ladies in orange sweaters”.

Last month the women went for training provided by the City of Cape Town, where they participated in workshops on disaster management, domestic violence, and home-based care.

Ward 49 councillor, Suzette Little, said the walking bus initiative was to empower women to do something positive in their communities.

“This idea was initiated because our children are at risk due to gang violence in the area. On some days the children don’t even make it to school because they are intimidated by the gangsters when walking to school.

“We are trying to uplift the community through the women and mothers in the community. The initiative also encourages young women to go back to school,” said Ms Little.

“The children are encouraged to go to school and arrive safely and on time,” she said.

Janice Mohammad, 37, said the sooner they pick the children up, the sooner the children are able to get to school, out of harm’s way.

“It’s pointless trying to intervene once the crime has already been committed. We are trying to intervene before crime can be committed. We are urging the community to come out and help us with the project,” she added.