Walking Bus Initiative to Boost Learner Safety
Media Statement by Dan Plato, Minister of Community Safety
Following calls from the community of Delft and this government's concerns regarding the safety of young learners when travelling to and from school, the Department of Community Safety has today launched a Walking Bus initiative as a pilot project at Sunray Primary School in Delft.
The Walking Bus initiative is a voluntary programme in which my Department's school safety volunteers, who have received neighbourhood watch as well as road safety training, escort groups of learners on foot to and from school.
The volunteers become the "drivers" and "conductors" of the bus, and parents wanting to accompany the learners are most welcome to join. This morning, I joined the young learners on their way to school to see the benefits of the initiative first hand.
The walking bus route "picks up" and "drops off" learners from designated points en route to school and then reverses the motion back home in the afternoons, according to arranged schedules. The route distance ranges from 1 km to 1.52 km.
At the heart of the initiative is the creation of a safe and supervised en route environment for young learners ensuring that they do not endure harassment or intimidation on their way to school and back and are also protected from potential road and traffic hazards.
This government is not only concerned with the protection of school buildings and property but, more importantly, it is about the safety of our children using these facilities, thus increasing safety within the whole of society.
The increasing rise in the number of vehicles on the province's roads, the number of fatalities occurring at road crossings and the threat of criminal and incidental misdemeanors highlighted the need for the initiative.
Walking Bus schemes have been successfully implemented in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia.
The benefits of the Walking Bus are not limited to safety as it also encourages walking and improves fitness, teaches learners road sense and traffic safety, reduces traffic congestion around schools, is an environmentally friendly way to travel and promotes independence and social interaction. For the pilot project at Sunray Primary, situated south of the Delft main road, the initiative focuses on Grade 1, 2 and 3 learners.
The Walking Bus pilot project has the support of roleplayers like the school principal, parents, the school governing body, Metro Police, SAPS and Road Safety Management, and through the strengthening of these partnerships, I am confident that it can be a great success.
Currently, the Department of Community Safety has a total of 836 school safety volunteers deployed at 183 high-risk schools and it is envisaged to extend this programme to at least these schools within the current financial year. I also invite school governing bodies or principals who want to start a Walking Bus to contact my office or the department.
I believe that the strength of the initiative lies in its simplicity and that it is a feasible and practical answer to learner safety whilst traveling to and from school.