In a nutshell
The Walking Bus Project entails parents, as well as volunteers from the broader community, walking groups of children to school in the morning and back home in the afternoon, with the aim of improving learner safety. In addition, if available to do so, the Walking Bus volunteers keep an eye on the perimetres of their local schools.
What we do
The Walking Bus Project was brought about to ensure safe and supervised trips to and from school, for learners in Cape Town communities that are ridden by gang related activity. The Department of Community Safety in the Western Cape (DoCS) has partnered with communities in the Western Cape to promote and expand the initiative, with launches of the project taking place on a regular basis. Engagement in this project is voluntary and has brought peace of mind to many parents, principals and staff at schools in the Western Cape.
The role of the Walking Bus Project
- The Walking Bus acts as a deterrent to would be perpetrators of criminal activities. It further serves as a preventative measure for children who attempt to engage in deviant behaviour. Some Walking Bus volunteers, of their own accord, also monitor the perimeters of their local schools to ensure that they are kept clear and free from perpetrators of ill intent.
- Children are excited and eager to walk to school and members of the Walking Bus keep a close eye on children who attempt to play truant or those who choose to stay home from school.
- Preventing children bringing drugs and weapons to school: Walking Bus members also have been instrumental in ensuring that no drugs or weapons access the school grounds. Youth are searched and checked at the school gates, in the presence of law enforcement officers, as well as during the walk to school. In many instances, drugs and weapons have been uncovered by the Walking Bus members on duty.
- The programme is undoubtedly an asset in many communities. SAPS has reported a remarkable difference in many areas where the rate of petty crime has dropped considerably, consequent of the Walking Bus Project.
The Walking Bus Approach
- The Walking Bus Project is open to all screened community members who have made huge strides in their capacity of ensuring that children are safe on their journey to and from school. As most of the members of the Walking Bus are neighbourhood watch (NHW) members as well, there is a process whereby police clearance is requested and other personal details are checked before an individual can become a Walking Bus volunteer.
- Training and Equipment
- Various workshops such as conflict resolution, first aid and road safety training are held throughout the year to equip the Walking Bus members to deal with any situation they may face and to overcome daily challenges.
- The Walking Bus members are supported by members of parliament and ward councillors, who often include them in training opportunities that arise.
- DoCS is currently in the process of procuring jackets, two-way radios and stop signs for Walking Bus members.
- DoCS is also in the process of finalising standard operating procedures for the Walking Bus Project, with the possibility that the groups be recognised as an activity of NHWs.
The Walking Bus Areas and Schools
The Walking Bus has been launched in 72 areas in the Western Cape, thus far. The initiative was initially piloted in Wesbank, following which it was successfully launched in many areas across the Western Cape. These areas include Lentegeur East and West, Beacon Valley, Eastridge, Woodlands, Tafelsig, Bishop Lavis, Delft, Belhar, Scottsdene, Scottsville, Blue Downs, Strand, Eersteriver, Leonsdale, Elsies River, Bonteheuwel, Hanover Park, Lavender Hill, Steenberg, Ocean View, Manenberg, Khayelitsha, Woodlands, Eastridge, Delft Leiden, Parow Valley, Belhar Ext 13, Clarke Estate, Ravensmead, Bellville South, Uitsig, Khayelitsha Site B, Khayelitsha Site C, Du Noon, Mfuleni, Atlantis, Gugulethu, Nyanga, Langa, Matroosfontein, Happy Valley, Heinz Park, Elsies River, The Range and Valhalla Park. In addition, the Walking Bus Project has been launched in several outlying areas, including Paarl East, Saldanha, George, Mossel Bay and Knysna. Schools in many other areas have urgently requested DoCS to launch the Walking Bus Project in their area. Consequently, the Walking Bus will be launched in 25 more areas in this financial year, with this number very likely to increase throughout the year.
How we do it
Strategic Approach & Purpose
The strategic approach and purpose of all community safety outreach programmes, including the Walking Bus Project, is to ensure that these programmes directly promote the objective of DoCS. The Walking Bus Project is aimed at building partnerships that create awareness of the fact that “safety is everyone’s responsibility”. This initiative seeks to achieve programme outcomes through use of the following strategies, public interventions, community engagement and public participation.
Public interventions involve building relations between DoCS and the public by forming safety partnerships. An example of this, is the Happy Valley Walking Bus Project, which has proven to be one of the many vital Walking Bus Projects implemented by DoCS. The Walking Bus Project in Happy Valley has assisted in ensuring the safety of all scholars in the community.
DoCS promotes the visibility of its programmes via public engagements related to the Walking Bus Project.
Public participation is imperative to the success of the Walking Bus Project. Schools, parents, CPFs, NHWs and community members are encouraged to join this initiative at a session arranged prior to its launch. It is here where the final logistics are discussed including, which groups will work with their specific schools and the specific routes to be walked. In addition, during this session co-ordinators for each school are elected.
What we have achieved
- There is a remarkable difference, on a daily basis, in the streets of the various neighbourhoods in which the Walking Bus Project operates. It appears that the perpetrators of violence tend to keep a low profile while the Walking Bus members are diligently performing their voluntary duties.
- Diverse communities have united and taken responsibility for safety in their respective areas.
- Correspondence has been received from schools, thanking the Minister of Community Safety and DoCS for this initiative and the Walking Bus volunteers for their efforts. Individuals from the general public also regularly compliment the project.
- With over 74 areas already launched in the previous financial year, the following couple of weeks will see more areas joining the Walking Bus family.
- In January 2018 alone, school principals and ward councillors in 12 more areas requested that the Walking Bus Project be launched in their area.
- As a result of requests by school principals and community leaders, the areas of Visserhok, Vanwyksdorp, Saldanha, Vredenburg and other outlying areas are on the list of areas where the Walking Bus Project will be launched in the new financial year.
- The Walking Bus was the recipient of the gold award for the best implemented project in the 2017 Provincial Service Excellence Awards. A wonderful achievement for a project that was in the early stages of being implemented in this province, at the time the award was received.
- On 12 February 2018, DoCS held its annual Thanksgiving Ceremony in honour and celebration of the residents and volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure the effectiveness and expansion of the Walking Bus Project across Cape Town communities. The purpose of the ceremony was for DoCS to acknowledge the role of their safety partners. Held in Bonteheuwel, the ceremony saw Minister Dan Plato hand out, to over 60 Walking Bus volunteers, certificates to honour them for their dedication to the project which has seen improvement that includes an increase in school attendance and the rooting out of violent activity that plagued schools in the community. The Walking Bus members were also presented with the necessary tools and resources required to continue with their efforts and stay committed to the cause - that of ensuring the safety of all school going children.
What we have learned
A key challenge currently faced, is the capacity to sustain the Walking Bus Project. This challenge is not as a result of a lack of interest, as the interest is currently overwhelming. Rather, the sustainability of this initiative is challenged by the need for continuous support specifically from other sponsors, stakeholders and partners who can assist in equipping the Walking Bus members. The issue of budget constraints is currently being discussed as a priority issue by DoCS, so as to ensure that the groups are supported adequately. The ministerial outreach team manages all the processes for the Walking Bus Project, a project that has become one of the flag ship programmes within DoCS.
As the project is known for simplicity at its best, bringing diverse communities together who show a united front in their fight against crime, there has been no real challenge other than the constant reassurance of support by some of the safety structures such as SAPS, Metro SAPS and Law Enforcement; specifically in some of the most vulnerable areas where there can be an outbreak of violence at any given time. These safety structures continuously go beyond the call of duty to ensure the safety of the Walking Bus members and children during threatening and nerve-wracking incidences. This includes their provision of counselling to many of the Walking Bus groups.
Going forward, DoCS plans to enhance the initiative in areas where the Walking Bus Project has already been launched. It aims to do this by encouraging more community members to become involved in the project. In addition, DoCS aims to launch the initiative in many more areas. Areas are chosen if they are specifically identified as being in need of the initiative and/ or if DoCS receives requests from school principals and community members to launch the initiative in their community.
A further aim, is to provide the correct and vital kits necessary in order to sustain the Walking Bus Project, so that the Walking Bus members can diligently continue with their operations - that of ensuring a safe passage to and from school for all children.
For further information please contact Jemayne Andrews, Assistant Director, Western Cape Department of Community Safety, Safety Promotion & Partnerships, Ministerial Outreach Projects.
- Tel: +27 (0)21 483 5326
- Email: Jemayne.Andrews@westerncape.gov.za