Learners are seen walking towards an area in District 6 where they have to wait for their transport. A community meeting was held on Monday to discuss learner safety in the District 6 and Zonnebloem area. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Town - An abduction scare in Zonnebloem and the recent killing of a 7-year-old saw governing bodies, police and traffic officials gather to find a solution.

Liyabona Mbata, 7, a Grade 1 pupil from Holy Cross Primary, was killed when an overcrowded taxi crashed.

The same month two girls were allegedly kidnapped in separate incidents while walking from school near Keizergracht Street.

A young pupil from Holy Cross school cried as he told of a recent incident where he was mugged at a MyCiTi bus stop by older boys who took all his belongings and made him walk in a direction away from school.

“It's a sad thing that it took the life of child for us to come together and take action. The problems affecting our children are problems we've been sitting with,” said Holy Cross school governing body chairperson Thembelani Nondonga.

“There is a huge break between parents, taxi drivers and what happens in between the time children are transported to school. Children need a safe space. I'm speaking from experience, having lost a child.”

Belhar Community Policing Forum representatives agreed and said children were crammed into taxis, and at certain schools were forced to wait outside the gates once school closed.

Karen Breytenbach, project director of the Chris Otto Foundation Trust, said 70% of pupils in District 6 commuted from the townships, and taxis sped, were overcrowded and parked a distance away from schools, forcing pupils to walk a long stretch through an area where lots of muggings, and recently also kidnappings, took place.

Police officer Denver Venketsamy said he had been monitoring the area since the abductions and engaging with pupils, and they were not as vulnerable to crime as some might think. “They know about not talking to strangers and about crime incidents in the area. We have a safer schools programme where we check areas with high crime reports and deploy resources.”

Police spokesperson, Ezra October, said police prioritised school safety but the alleged abductions were isolated incidents away from school premises. MEC Debbie Schäfer's spokesperson, Jessica Shelver, said the Western Cape Education Department would have discussions with schools and transport authorities to create drop-off zones on school premises to keep pupils safe.

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Cape Argus