Gugulethu residents participating in the two school walking bus projects at NY4, in Luzuko and Ilitha primary schools, surprised many people with their willingness to educate people about the coronavirus.
The Walking Bus Project involves 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 pupil safety. In addition, if available to do so, the Walking Bus volunteers keep an eye on the perimetres of their local schools.
Schools were closed on Wednesday March 18 as part of the government’s measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, however, members of the two projects decided not to sit at home but to inform residents about the dangers of the virus.
The 60-strong group of women and men aimed to go the length and breadth of Gugulethu, across language and cultural barriers, to teach all about the deadly virus.
The group volunteered to do duty at various venues, including the mall last week just before the lockdown came into force.
Zoe Maxengwane, spokeswoman for the group, said they had to sit down and discuss the way forward now that schools are closed.
She said they still looked after schools but Covid-19 had to be prioritised. “We have noticed how our people are taking this virus for granted. We then spoke to Mayor Dan Plato, councillor Mzwakhe Nqavashe and councillor Deon Basson and they were very helpful. They organised us the pamphlets to distribute. But we had to learn about the virus so that we could tell people about it,” she said.
Ms Mxengwane was happy that the mayor bought into their idea. She said it was interesting that all members of the project were of the same mind.
She added that they believe that the country must be freed from the scourge.
“Everyone showed interest in going out and educating our people. Yes we are protecting children from school in all sorts of dangers, but this too needs us. We all need to take responsibility even beyond this virus,” she said.
Another volunteer, Ntombizodwa Mapeyi, said she found that residents and people in general were more eager to learn though some felt intimidated by the virus. “What an experience talking to people about the virus. They gave us their ears shame. Many listened and showed interest. But there are those who showed fear talking about it. This scares the hell out of them. But we had to do what we had to, educate them,” she said.
She took the opportunity to call on parents of pupils to be more responsible for their children while schools are closed. She said some parents had allowed their children to be transported to school at the back of vans which were jam-packed.
For Lisa Ntsebeza, it was good to educate older people because they will pass the information to the children. Like Ms Mapeyi, she has called on parents to be more responsible for their children. She said as a member of a walking bus, she has seen a lot from greedy transport owners and carelessness of parents.
“I have seen it all here. The drivers who bring children to schools are greedy for money. But the blame again should be placed on their parents who allow the vans to pack children like fish. With coronavirus, I hope everyone will take care of the children in particular. We still want them alive,” she said.