The people in the ‘bus’ walk to and fro

Members of the Youth Work Project.

Parents and principals joined the Department of Community Safety and other organisations on a “Walking Bus” drive, to create a safe path for children to and from school.

Metro police, law enforcement, Steenberg CPF, neighbourhood watches, ward councillors and the community joined the initiative on Friday September 28 to walk with children from primary schools such as Floreat, Sullivan, Delta, Steenberg and Harmony, to create a safe and supervised route for pupils to and from school every day with the commitment and involvement of the community.

After the walk, they met at Steenberg community hall, where Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, who initiated the idea, discussed the importance of getting involved and creating a “safe passage” during gang outbreaks.

Mr Plato said the Walking Bus idea was sparked when he went on a visit to Lavender Hill after some gang violence. Children were exposed to the violence and Mr Plato decided to encourage parents to form a group that would meet at certain points in the area and walk with the children to school. Another group or the same group would then walk with the children after school as well.

Earlier this year, other areas such as Bonteheuwel, Mitchell’s Plain, Scottsdene and Elsies River, also had a Walking Bus drive.

Lavender Hill parents joined the Steenberg crew to assist. Everyone received a yellow bib, with “youth work project” written at the back. Name tags will soon be issued.

Celestine Damons, a parent, said her group have been assisting the children in Lavender Hill. “We walk with them to our schools such as Lavender Hill High, Levana Primary and Hillwood Primary.”

Mr Plato said: “Our children’s walking bus drive is an extension to the neighbourhood watch and Community Police Forum. We are not taking over their job, but strengthening it.”

He said the duties of the walking bus parents are to make themselves visible and to not allow drug addicts to stand on corners. “Don’t allow kids to smoke dagga on the streets. Don’t allow a handful of gangsters to take over our area.”

Ward 68 councillor Marita Petersen said she read a headline in the Southern Mail, “Gangsterism can be beaten around the kitchen table,” which stuck in her mind (Southern Mail, September 21).

“Change can come by sitting around the kitchen table. Put the television off and sit around the table with your family,” said Ms Petersen.

She advised families to take action and embrace the community to prevent children from being victimised by gangsters.

Denver Cloete, principal of Sullivan Primary School, said: “We have about 30 parents who are on board at our school. We also paired with Steenberg Primary School parents to share our service in walking with the children.”

Mr Cloete said this initiative jogged memories of how parents behaved in the “old days”. “When we were growing up, we would be checked by other parents if they found us smoking on the street. They would say, ‘jy is aunty dinges se kind, gaan huis toe’, (you are aunty so and so’s child, go home). In those days, the parents approach was that my child is your child.”

An active grandmother, Margaret Smart, from Steenberg, said she gets up early to walk with the children to Sullivan and Steenberg primary schools.

Mr Plato said mothers should take an interest in their children’s well-being. “A mother knows her children. At the moment we have over 100 people who joined this initiative but we are aiming at 400 to 500 people.”

He said the department is planning to fund the Walking Bus, “elect a chairperson, and a treasurer”.

“We will open a Walking Bus bank account and the funds can be utilised for a community projects, for Christmas hampers etc,” said Mr Plato.