Women protecting pupils from gang violence

These women risk their lives to protect pupils walking to and from school.

A “walking bus” led mostly by women has been protecting pupils from Scottsdene’s gang violence since 2015.

While a number of Scottsdene children have fallen victim to stray bullets in the streets, the group boasts that no pupil has been shot under its watch.

The walking bus’s 10 women and five men protect pupils who have to walk through Scottsdene ganglands to get to and from schools.

The provincial Department of Community started the walking-bus concept in 2015, getting community volunteers to walk children to school.

Walking-bus member Nicolette Nadimir said some of them stayed on at the school to help with sanitising the pupils, while others helped with food.

“Anyone can join but there is no money involved,” Ms Nadimir said.

They walk children every morning to Kraaifontein AME Primary, Parkdene Primary, Cavalleria Primary, Watsonia Park Primary and Scottsdene High.

“Our members have a passion for helping the community, and we want to keep our kids safe. The most important thing is to have a love for doing it,” Ms Nadimir said.

The also provide shoes and food to needy pupils.

On Women’s Day, Monday August 9, walking-bus members helped Scottsdene activist Bertha du Toit, 58, deliver surprise gifts to 70 women in the community.

“Some of the challenges faced are when there are gang shootings while walking children to school and back. Fortunately, no kids were ever shot while walking with us,” Ms Nadimir said.

Asked what gives her the drive to wake up each day to walk the children, bus member Alvira Christiaan said: “Just seeing the smile on their faces every morning, especially when they see us waiting on them. They look out for us and call us teachers. Wow! My hearts starts melting immediately when they run from their parents to us because they know their safety is our first priority.”

She said there was often a lack of visible policing in the areas where they walked with the children.

“Some community members don’t even care that we put our lives at risk,” Ms Christiaan said. “We love what we do and the children have a special place in our hearts.”

Had it not been for the walking bus, many Scottsdene pupils would have dropped out of school and absenteeism would be much worse, she said.