The Congress of South African Trade Unions is deeply shocked and angry at the recent horrific accidents – four in the last week alone – involving children being transported to and from school, and demands urgent action to ensure that all learners are provided with safe, reliable transport.
In Pietermaritzburg on 28 January 2015 24 primary school pupils from Fezokuhle Primary School were packed like sardines onto the back of a Toyota bakkie which crashed over the edge of a road and down into a house in Imbali Township.
The driver reportedly lost control on a bend and most of the children were flung from the bakkie. Four girls and two boys died after being trapped in the wreckage under falling debris from the house and a seventh child died later in hospital. The bakkie crashed through a garden wall before smashing into a house with such force that part of the house collapsed.
The very next day, 23 learners, travelling to different schools around Durban, were injured in a collision involving a taxi and a bus on 29 January 2015 in Umlazi, south of Durban. The taxi is reported to have rear-ended the bus along the Mangosuthu Highway and the driver and two of his passengers were severely injured and the other 19 sustained moderate to minor injuries.
Then on Friday 30 January, 8 children were injured when a car hit them outside their school in Reservoir Hills, Durban.
And most recently, in Gauteng Province, on 2 February 2015, 13 learners were injured after the car in which they were travelling collided with a truck on the N3 Highway in Alberton on Gauteng’s East Rand. Twelve children were treated for light injuries while the thirteenth child was critical and had to be cut from the wreckage.
The Pietermaritzburg accident highlighted the terrible danger of using bakkies to transport people, especially children. COSATU endorses the view of KZN’s MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Willies Mchunu, that:
ldquoIt is extremely unfortunate that we have to learn of yet another loss of young lives in a bakkie accident. This is despite our repeated calls for all stakeholders to take collective responsibility for road safety by ensuring that bakkies are used for what they are made forhellip and not to ferry people. The overloaded bakkie was a recipe for disaster.rdquo
He conceded that there had not been lsquotraffic blitzes’ to check bakkies transporting children for overloading, but that they would be considered in future. Traffic laws, he said, were too lenient and allowed people to lsquoet away with murder’.
Sibonginkosi Dladla, whose daughter Lwandile is in intensive care, said the bakkie was always overloaded. ldquoI used to complain and she (the bakkie’s owner) used to say she will make a plan. What could I do? I had no option but to send my child. It only cost R220 a month.rdquo
The Mercury reports that after the Umlazi accident parents pleaded with KZN Premier Senzo Mchunu and Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, when they visited the children at Prince Mshiyeni Hospital, to sort out the issue of school transport.
ldquoI believe that government-subsidised transport would be safer and cheaper than the private transport we have been forced into with no alternative,rdquo said parent Nomusa Mcanyana. ldquoOther countries have buses dedicated to transporting school pupils and I think South Africa should do the same,rdquo she said.
COSATU fully supports these calls. Provincial departments of transport and education must take responsibility for ensuring that proper, safe busses are provided for all learners in their provinces and traffic police must strictly enforce the laws of the road.
These accidents are symptomatic of the iniquitous two-tier service delivery in the provision of public services like education and transport. The situation is made worse by the dysfunctionality of public schools in poorer areas, causing many parents to move their children to schools in suburbs much farther from home, requiring them to make long journeys, and costly, each day.
The ANC’s January 8th Statement 2015 pledged the government to be guided by the Freedom Charter. It declared that ldquoEducation shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all childrenrdquo. If that pledge is to be made a reality, free and safe transport to and from school must be provided for every learner.
Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
Source : Congress of South African Trade Unions