North West school shortage fuels dodgy buses
North West bus driver Johannes Mpofu Ngwanathota says he fears for the safety of the more than 200 young learners he transports daily in a school bus meant for only half that load. He blames not only the bus owner, but a lack of schools in the rural North West community.
Ngwanathota drives the learners, all of whom are younger than 10 years old, daily to school in the small town of Makwassie about 100 kms west of Klerksdorp. Learners must sit on the floor or each other’s laps to fit into the bus, which has already been cited once for overcrowding, he said.
“Traffic officials gave me a ticket for overloading but when I showed it to the owner, she said the problem would be fixed as soon as the other bus was fixed,” Ngwanathota told OurHealth. “I don’t feel comfortable about this.”
“When I go over a pothole, they get flung,” he added. “I’ve seen them vomit on top of each other. It is just unsafe and inhumane – I don’t know what to do.”
[quote float= right]They are sitting on top of each other in the bus and getting sick on each other’s clothes”
Phakedi Primary School Grade 4 teacher Brenda Mofadi travels with the pupils and says there has been a high rate of absenteeism since the second privately-owned bus broke down.
“This has had a negative impact on education and will, in the long run, have an impact on pass rate,” she said. “Children attend school with dirty clothes because they are sitting on top of each other in the bus and getting sick on each other’s clothes.”
According to Ngwanathota, the problem of poor learner transport in the area is fuelled by a lack of schools in the nearby Leboleng township, which forces parents to send children farther away for schooling.
According to community members, repeated pleas for more schools in the youth-heavy aread have fallen on deaf ears. A second public school, Atlarelang Primary School, was built in 2006 to support the already overloaded Phogole Primary School, but both schools cannot accommodate all the pupils.
Bus owner, Jeanette Ntemogeng, said she is forced to use only one bus because the second bus is in for repairs.
“I understand that is not safe for these children to be transported long distances every day like this but my other bus is damaged,” she said.
Ntemogeng has promised that a second bus would be operational by the end of this week.