Walking bus curbs tardiness and truancy

Some of the members of the Scottsville walking bus are, back from left, Anton Potgieter, Ralph Litago and Ruiter Klaasen. In front, are Valerie Klaasen, Anna Hendricks and Magrieta Hendricks, with her granddaughter, Mia Hendricks.

Some Scottsville neighbourhood watch members have taken the area’s schoolchildren under their wings.

They walk Petunia Primary School children to the gates every morning and hurry tardy Scottsville High School pupils on their way. They also patrol the area for bunking pupils and take them back to school.

Walking bus member Magrieta Isaacs said they also patrolled school perimeters during break times.

Scottsville High School principal Henry Hockey is pleased with the impact the group has had since it started at the school last year.

“A lot of our learners, their parents wake them up and get them ready for school but they don’t come to school right away,” Mr Hockey said.

Before the walking bus came along, pupils frequently bunked or came to school late. Tardiness was such a problem that teachers would cycle through the neighbourhood to tell them to get a move on.

“I really welcome the initiative,” Mr Hockey said.

“We can still work around how we can improve on it. But we don’t want the situation where learners feel they are being reprimanded by members of the community.

“That’s our job. They may have a valid reason for being late.”

Mr Hockey has also asked the walking bus members to patrol the school buildings and monitor the fence for anyone trying to approach pupils.

“Someone who has business at the school will come to the office, but if they come to the fence, we can expect that there is trouble,” Mr Hockey said.

Armed with a whistle and a device that sounds an alarm, the walking bus members take their job very seriously.

“Look, there is a drug dealer,” bus member Anna Hendricks said, spotting a loiterer along the school fence in Petunia Street, close to the station. Other members of the bus let loose with their whistles: a screeching chorus confronted the man and he moved off.

“This is a nice job,” Ms Isaacs said. “We do this voluntary because we love the children and care about the children in our community.”

Another member, Anton Potgieter, is also very proud that they catch so many potential bunkers.

“Last week, we caught a girl at the station,” he said. “It was 11am and she didn’t have a consent letter. So we brought her back to school.”

The station appears to be another hot spot for the watch. Ms Isaacs said they walked several pupils across the station after some of them had been robbed of their phones there several weeks ago.

But the Scottsville High School group is what one could call the second shift. At 7.30am, every morning, the walking bus meets at a pick-up point in Dahlia Street, where Petunia Primary School children meet them.

Then, just before 8am, the walkers drop every one of the pupils off at the school gate. At 1.30pm, they go back to collect them.

Ward councillor Brenda Hansen started the walking bus earlier this year after a shooting incident.

“We would like more parents to become involved because, at the moment, most of the walking bus are neighbourhood watch members and we have a lot of children in the group,” she said.

Ms Isaacs agrees that co-operation is key to keep the bus on the road. “Kom ons werk saam dan maak ons ‘* mooi Scottsville,” she said.