The use of bakkies to carry schoolchildren is illegal but there are areas where there is no other mode of transport. File photo: Siyanda Mayeza / INLSA

Durban - At least 82 KwaZulu-Natal children have been involved in bakkie and taxi accidents in the past three months. This figure was reached by analysing incidents reported by paramedic services Netcare 911 and ER24 from June, July and August, but the actual figure could be even higher.

On 31 August 24 children were hurt when a bakkie and a taxi collided in Kwandengezi, near Pinetown. ER24 spokesman Russel Meiring said their injuries ranged from minor to moderate. They were on their way to school.

Earlier that month, 10 children were among those injured when two taxis collided head-on on the Church Street Bridge in Pietermaritzburg. Meiring said they were aged 7 to 10 and the injuries ranged from minor to moderate.

In July, six children were hurt in a taxi crash at the intersection of French and Prince Albert roads in Pietermaritzburg. They were aged between 13 and 16, Meiring said, and on their way to school.

Also in July, eight children were hurt when a taxi collided with a bakkie on the M1 near Kwandengezi. The children were aged 6 to 12, Netcare 911’s Athlenda Mathe said, and they were on their way home from school.

In June, a taxi carrying at least 16 children overturned about 50km outside Ladysmith.

Several of the secondary school children sustained minor injuries, ER24’s Chitra Bodasing said.

Also in June, at least 18 children aged between 6 and 12 sustained moderate to minor injuries when a taxi rolled down an embankment, crashing into a house in Thembalihle, Pietermaritzburg, Mathe said. They were on their way home from school.

The issue of safe scholar transport is a perennial one and Equal Education has been engaged in a campaign in Kwazuklu-Natal, in which it is calling for a scholar transport policy.

Too far to walk

National spokeswoman for the rights organisation Nombulelo Nyathela said: “Obviously it isn’t safe for schoolchildren to walk those long distances, but also some end up using unsafe transport methods.

“Because of our intervention, 11 schools have received emergency relief for scholar transport in Nquthu.”

But the organisation is aware that the current budget for scholar transport is insufficient.

In March, when it presented its budget to the finance portfolio committee, the KwaZulu-Natal transport department maintained that the demand for scholar transport simply exceeded the available funding.

Transport spokesman Kwanele Ncalane said the department was concerned about the number of recent accidents involving schoolchildren and that their safety was a priority for the department.

“Currently we are providing about 22 000 schoolchildren with transport every day,” Ncalane said.

Huge backlog

Last week, the MEC for education and the MEC for transport had a meeting to try to speed up the process.

“The backlog is quite huge,” Ncalane said.

He said there were still areas where pupils had to travel long distances to and from school.

Ncalane said the department was conducting an audit of people using bakkies to transport schoolchildren.

“Our team has produced its first report. It will produce a second one,” he said. The use of bakkies to carry schoolchildren was illegal, Ncalane added, “but there are areas where there is no other mode of transport”.

The department was also in the process of issuing taxi operators with special licences.

“But over and above, we are urging people to take responsibility for their own children,” Ncalane said.

The Mercury

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