Being accosted and robbed of their cell phones and money and confrontations by drunk people. These are but a few of the realities that learners from Klapmuts who travelled to school in Paarl by mini-bus taxi and train were exposed to.
But since the introduction of a new bus service, 280 learners can now travel to school in safety.
Caption: Some of the Klapmuts learners who can now travel to school in safety. They are holding Cllr Sophie Louw (Local Economic Development). The learners are (from left): Jeimicklynne Alexander, Brydgette Abrahams, Johanna Kroutz (a parent), Carlene Kroutz, Kaylene Alexander, Carrey-Ann Jacobs, Ryan Alexander and (in front) Des-Lee Hartzenberg and Bronwyn Marang.
“I cannot explain the sense of relief I feel now,” says parent Amanda Borens, a cleaner working at the Greater Stellenbosch Municipality. “I used to be tense all day waiting for my daughter, Nicole (13), to come home by taxi. Sometimes she arrived hours late because the mini-bus taxi was not on time.”
Nicole, a learner at Klein Nederburg Secondary School in Paarl says she was often late for school. “I do not like being late because it wastes education time,” she says. “We would often wait for the taxi early in the morning while it was still dark. It was horrible when it did not arrive.”
The bus service was introduced early in June after three years of hard work by Stellenbosch councillors Sophie Louw (Local Economic Development) and Aldridge Frazenburg (Community Services).
“I am also a mother and although my children are grown up, I know how worried parents are when they think their children are exposed to dangerous situations,” says Louw.
“Some of the learners who travelled from Klapmuts to Paarl by train, had to walk three to four kilometers to get to the station. And in Paarl they had to walk from the station to their school. Some of the children were robbed of their cell phones and money on the way. Many of the learners would arrive at the Paarl station and decide it was too much effort to walk further and they would then just spend the day at the station or walk around town. With the bus service the learners get dropped right in front of their different schools. In general it is a much safer situation.”
Conrad Sidego, Executive Mayor of Stellenbosch says: “No child should be exposed to this kind of danger. Our aim is to help the people of the greater Stellenbosch to live with dignity and to create a safe environment. As the innovation capital we continuously strive to find practical solutions to problems and this initiative helps to keep our children safe.”
Six buses daily transport 280 children.
Mr Mervyn Alexander, father of Jeimicklynne (13), lives near the Klapmuts station. He says he often witnessed groups of children from different schools fighting.
“Once a stone they threw at each other smashed through one of my windows. Although Jeimicklynne did not travel by train but by taxi, she also had to walk far and was exposed to a number of dangers. One of her friends was attacked and robbed of her cell phone. It is terrible to worry about your child all the time.”
Some of the learners walked through gangster controlled areas and they were sometimes confronted by intoxicated visitors to the shebeens.
A number of learners said they are thankful that their parents no longer have to pay for transport which cost an average of R480 per child. The tab is now picked up by the Provincial Government.