Learners’ transport capacity and safety must be made a priority

Pupils get onto a school transport which is not equipped to carry them: supplied

Pupils get onto a school transport which is not equipped to carry them: supplied

Published Jan 21, 2024


THE start of the school year has yet again brought to the fore issues of learner’s transport and its safety and dangers, with those in the transport sector and parents calling for safety to always be at the forefront.

Over the years social media has been flooded with reports and footage of overcrowded vehicles transporting learners, in addition to road accidents involving mostly young children.

In one video which went viral online, traffic officers were seen loading more than 30 children and their school bags from a 12-seater while there was also evidence that some in the vehicle were not headed for school.

This has caused, among others, police officers and school governing bodies to call on parents to pay particular attention to the mode of transport they entrust their children onto.

When a 99-seater City of Tshwane bus was stopped by police officers for cramming 167 school children into it in 2022, officials called it “horrific” and “daring death”.

When they responded to a public outcry after footage of the incident went viral, the City said: “The City would like to emphasise its commitment to road safety and in the strongest terms condemn the overloading of our buses.”

It said the bus driver had been called to account for his “despicable and dangerous” conduct, and called on community members not to put pressure on drivers to allow additional passengers, particularly school pupils, onto City buses.

“City vehicles and drivers should not be excluded from rules that compel road users to behave in an orderly manner,” the City said.

Parents often are unaware of the capacity of the transport their children take to school: supplied

Parents have said they were sometimes given the assurance of safety and comfort when they engaged transport owners only to discover that their children went to and from school crammed against others.

Lorna Moholo from Mamelodi said: “I accompanied my son to his transport for two weeks when the school started and was happy with both the condition of the vehicle and the numbers it carried.”

It was during the second term that she discovered, by chance, that her 8-year-old sometimes sat in the boot of the vehicle.

“I was shocked and when I contacted the owner, so was she. If it was not for school security who informed me when I went there for a meeting, I might never have known,” she said.

Community patrollers from Soshanguve said they often stopped scholar transport when they noticed it was overloaded or not fit for the road.

Mondli Baloyi said: “Last year alone we got seven vehicles off the school route and redirected the children to registered transport as we have had accidents and deaths from overlooking this important aspect.”

In KwaZulu-Natal, one transport owner said the lure of money was often behind the overloading of children into smaller and/or unroadworthy vehicles.

“Some of these drivers are trying to make ends meet and don’t have enough money to buy new vehicles. We want them to get permits for at least five years so they can finance vehicles that will be suitable and safe to transport children to school,” he said.

This week, the Road Traffic Management Corporation added its voice to the chorus of concern, emphasising how critically important it was for learners’ transport operators to prioritise the roadworthiness of their vehicles and their capacity before allowing pupils and vehicles onto the road.

It said the responsibility of scholar transport operators extended to ensuring the safe daily travel of millions of learners between home and school. “This necessitates holding drivers and vehicles to a high standard with strict adherence to safety protocols and road regulations. Achieving this standard involves conducting comprehensive vehicle inspections and maintenance checks on a regular basis.”

In addition, it asked operators to ensure that drivers had the requisite documents to transport learners. “These proactive measures remain pivotal in significantly enhancing the overall safety of learners during their commute.”

It recommended frequent vehicle roadworthiness checks, including assessing brakes, tyres, lights, and all other critical components; regular maintenance and the prompt addressing of all wear and tear; the renewal of documentation including vehicle licence discs; and making sure that their drivers had driver training and certification.

Spokesperson Simon Zwane said: “Ensure that all drivers are adequately trained and certified with valid professional driving permits. Emphasise the importance of road safety and responsible driving behaviour, especially when transporting learners.”

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