Walking bus programme picks up speed

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas recently visited the women of the Walking Bus outside the Sentinel Primary School.

Hangberg’s Walking Bus Project has been helping children get to and from school safely for the past three years, and now volunteers will get a small stipend.

The provincial programme is managed and funded by the City of Cape Town in the metro region.

Mayor Dan Plato started the programme in 2016 when he was the Community Safety MEC. 

“Making our communities safer requires everyone to be involved, and we are pleased that so many community members have shown an interest in being part of this project,” Mr Plato said.

For the first time, a stipend would now be paid to all Walking Bus members, Mr Plato said.

However, by time of going to print, the Sentinel was unable to determine how much it will be or exactly when it will be paid. Walking Bus is meant to protect children in vulnerable communities such as Hangberg.

“In some of our communities, getting an education is more challenging as our youth live in areas affected by crime and gang violence,” Mr Plato said.

Walking Bus runs in 55 areas across the city, and there are plans to expand it into 20 more next year.

“Behind this simple task there is a significant meaning: adults are protecting the potential of these future leaders by ensuring their safe journey to and from school in their neighbourhood,” Mr Plato said.

Parents like Athina Williams have breathed a sigh of relief since the volunteers in their bright yellow bibs took to the streets of Hangberg.

Ms Williams has two daughters at Sentinel Primary School.

“I sometimes have to leave very early in the morning, and I am unable to walk them to school. Since the programme was launched, it’s such a relief to know there are people out there keeping an eye out for them.”

Ms Williams welcomed the decision to pay a stipend to the volunteers.

“These are people who get up every morning very early and make time during the afternoon to go and look out for others kids. It’s the least that can be done to show that their efforts are being appreciated.”

Herman Johannes’s son attends the Hout Bay High School, and he is impressed with those helping to get his boy and other children to and from school safely.

“This is not a case where people were forced out onto the street to go and care for other people’s children. They converse with our children and they make them feel safe. For me, that is the biggest difference and these men and women have to be commended for their efforts, every single day.”

He urged Hangberg to support the programme.

“I too will make time to assist with this programme, not for the money, but because this sends such a great message out to everybody: a community caring for members of their community.

“When you pass them in the road, give a ‘well done’ or simply just say thank you for the effort,” Mr Johannes said.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said he was thrilled that the programme had grown and that the volunteers would earn a stipend.

The Walking Bus team, he said, would also look out for children playing truant and notify schools and parents.

“This proactive approach aims to see learners being kept in school and safely off the streets and schools and parents addressing truancy issues with the youth,” he said.