DURBAN - A TRIP back from school turned horrific for children and staff from the Durban Child and Youth Care Centre when their school transport vehicle was hijacked at gunpoint outside Chesterville Secondary School on Wednesday.
The centre’s director, Mandy Goble, said they received a hysterical call from the child-care worker accompanying the driver on his school pick-up route who said that their new Toyota Quantum school bus, full of children who were being collected from school, had been hijacked.
“The hijackers drove off with the children until they stopped at a quiet place to remove the tracker while taking instructions over the phone,” she said.
The hijackers demanded all cellphones from the occupants, but luckily the care worker managed to hide hers, she said.
Goble said that they received a notification from the tracker company about it being disconnected.
“A few minutes later we received a call from the child-care worker after they were all dumped at the eThekwini TVET College in Cato Manor,” she said.
The stolen vehicle was purchased last year April and was a replacement for another vehicle that was stolen from the centre in 2020.
“We experienced the inconvenience of struggling to get 74 children to and from the 23 schools they attend, while working tirelessly to secure funds to cover the difference between the insurance pay-out and the cost of a new vehicle, this (incident) has left us discouraged beyond words,” she said.
Goble added that the centre also had children with chronic illnesses and who needed to be transported to clinics.
She said the children and staff were left physically unharmed on the side of the road, however, the emotional trauma runs deep.
“Our social worker was on hand with our child-care team to provide the children and staff with trauma counselling after the Umbilo SAPS escorted our other driver into the area to pick up the abandoned children and staff,” she said.
“The fact that our experience has happened during South Africa’s observance of Child Protection Month, makes it even more compelling for us to refuse to accept the lawlessness that has gripped our country,” added Goble.
KZN SAPS spokesperson Constable Thenjiswa Ngcobo confirmed the incident, saying a case was opened with Cato Manor SAPS and the two suspects were still at large.