Children being accosted and robbed of their cellular phones, jewellery or money on their way to or from school, has led to the establishment of the Walking Bus initiative in Lansdowne.
Dan Plato, MEC for Community Development, launched it at Portia Primary School on Friday September 7. Ward 60 councillor, Mark Kleinschmidt, said the initiative came about after meetings he had with principals in the area, as well as representatives of the Western Cape Education Department’s Safe Schools programme.
“One of the principals reported that a pupil at his school was robbed and that necessitated the Walking Bus to be conceptualised. I contacted Mr Plato, and he assigned Owen Munroe to facilitate the process. We need parents to volunteer one hour of their time in the morning and one hour in the afternoon to make sure our children walk safely to and from the bus stops and other drop-off points.
“Our stakeholders include SAPS, the neighbourhood watch-
es, the Community Police Forum (CPF), the Department of Community Safety, schools and concerned parents. We need this intervention, especially now with so many reports of child abductions,” Mr Kleinschmidt said.
Chairperson of the Lansdowne CPF, Rafique Foflonker, said the safety of children should always be a priority. “We will never downplay any initiative to ensure children’s safety. We welcome the Walking Bus and scholar patrols. In fact, we need more scholar patrols and parent involvement. We must apply ‘my child is your child’. We need to be mindful and cautious when it comes to children’s safety, and read social media with a pinch of salt. There are a lot of fake news out there and people are being traumatised about this, which is 90% false or misinformed,” Mr Foflonker said.
Mr Plato said government could not “rest on our laurels”, while there were many child murders.
“We need to do whatever we can, but policing is not just for the police alone. As it is, police stations are understaffed and the Western Cape would need another 20 000 police officers. This is why parents, and society at large, have a role to play. Even if you don’t have a child attending a school near you, adopt that school. A cellphone is also a powerful tool – use it.
“The bibs the Walking Bus volunteers wear, gives them some sort of authority. It is not for anyone else to wear and it makes it easier for children to identify them. We will also soon be handing out two-way radios, and will also look into bullying on the way to and from school,” Mr Plato said.
Since the establishment of the Walking Bus initiative in 2016, 94 have been launched in areas across Cape Town.
Speaker of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament Sharna Fernandez, Ward 60 councillor Mark Kleinschmidt, MEC for Community Safety Dan Plato, and Lansdowne SAPS station commander, Colonel Shawn van Wyk, spoke to Grade R pupils at Portia Primary School about “stranger danger”.