New scholar transport regulations are aimed at preventing scenes like this. Picture: Matthews Baloyi/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Cape Town - With thousands of pupils making their way to school and home each day using public transport or private transport operators, their safety on the roads is always a cause for concern.

From overloading to vehicle unroadworthiness and unregistered vehicles and drivers, parents worry daily. Gugulethu parent Mondeka Mabibi said the conditions children had to endure on dodgy transport to school were “disturbing” and required active intervention by parents.

“Parents and caregivers whose children use scholar transport need to ensure the vehicle is roadworthy and is registered to transport scholars. They need to know the vehicle is carrying the right number of children, and no matter how desperate they are, they should not subject their kids to overloading, putting their lives at risk”.

Over 61000 pupils were transported by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) scholar transport programme each day to and from schools last year. The scheme caters for all pupils travelling more than 5km to their nearest school in areas where alternative transport is not available.

WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the budget allocated to this “pro-poor” initiative had increased significantly over the years.

“In 2007, R100241000 was spent on learner transport. This has increased by over 400%. In the 2018/2019 year, R400570000 was budgeted for this programme, and in 2019/2020, R422201000,” she said.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said the safe transportation of schoolchildren should be a shared responsibility between parents, schools, vehicle owners and drivers. He said vehicles transporting children should be registered, licensed and tested at a roadworthy centre every six months.

“The City Transport Enforcement Unit will do regular checks and patrols to ensure that operators aren’t in transgression of traffic laws,” he said, adding that they would prioritise safe transportation of children and not hesitate to enforce the law.

“One safety aspect often overlooked is that there should be seat belts. The driver should also have the necessary documentation. The vehicle should also have clear signage to identify it as a scholar transport vehicle,” he said, adding that parents should report unroadworthy buses and those overloading pupils to traffic authorities.

@Mtuzeli

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Cape Argus