Cape Town - Scholar transport and its negligence in safeguarding learners is again under the spotlight following the death of a learner who was struck by a vehicle while crossing the road to his awaiting lift in front of his school.
Six-year-old Arkash Okwan Mpayipheli, a Grade 1 learner from Langa, took his last breath just outside the gates of Wespoort Primary School in Mitchells Plain.
According to a witness, the driver waited opposite the school and hooted for the child to come over. The boy then ran across the road, and that’s when tragedy struck. Arkash collapsed on the pavement and died on the scene.
Provincial MEC of Mobility Ricardo Mackenzie confirmed to Weekend Argus that the vehicle was not registered on their database.
“I was deeply saddened to hear that a Grade 1 learner was fatally hit by a vehicle outside a school in Mitchells Plain.
“My heartfelt condolences go out to the parents, family and friends who are dealing with this devastating news.
“Our Mobility Department has checked our system, and we can confirm that the vehicle's registration is not linked to a scholar transport operating licence,” he said.
In a statement issued as schools started, Mackenzie emphasised that there are strict requirements for transporting learners.
"To ensure that children are safe while travelling to school, transport operators must comply with these requirements. It is also important for parents and schools to understand the requirements and immediately report any concerns about unsafe or illegal transport operators," he said.
The operator must have a valid operating licence for providing learner transport services, and the driver must have a valid driving licence and professional driving permit (PrDP).
Only vehicles that comply with legislated safety standards and that were manufactured after September 1, 2006, (except for the 2005 Toyota Quantum) may be used.
Learners may not be transported on the back of a bakkie or on a light delivery vehicle.
The department said during the current financial year, Provincial Traffic Officers have conducted 314 operations targeting scholar transport, stopping and checking 13 282 vehicles and issuing R3 571 850 worth of fines.
“These statistics demonstrate how enforcing scholar transport is an ongoing priority for us,” Mackenzie said.
In 2023, the department’s Provincial Regulatory Entity (PRE) approved over 1 500 applications for operating licences to transport learners.
“Our mission is to improve mobility in the Western Cape, and our teams work extremely hard to create an enabling environment for industry while ensuring safe and reliable transport for commuters.
“Officials are available to assist any operators with applications or compliance guidelines,” he said.
The PRE can be contacted on 021 483 0270, at [email protected] or in person at the Vangate Shared Service Centre in Athlone (office hours: 07h30 to 16h00).
In the Road Traffic Management Corporation Report, 12 436 South Africans died in motor vehicle-related crashes, and 10,2% of the fatalities were listed as children up to 14 years old.
Child injury prevention unit ChildSafe, based at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, said various factors contribute to the increased risk, such as inadequate road infrastructure, a lack of supervision and having no alternative but to walk as a means of transport.
For this reason, the Walking Safely to School project is currently being implemented in the province.
The intervention is to observe International Walk to School Day on Friday, October 20, and will be carried out through ChildSafe in partnership with Unicef and key project partners, including the Western Cape Government through its Departments of Education and Mobility, the City of Cape Town and the Centre for Transport Studies (University of Cape Town).