This bus is made for walking
In the Cape Flats, gang violence is part of life. Normal activities stop when shootings begin. Wesbank local Edith van Wyk lost her only son and her brother to gangsterism within three years of each other. Her grandson, Tyrese, stopped going to school because it was too dangerous, along with other children in the community. In the face of increasing violence, Van Wyk chose to take action. Rather than allowing children to live in fear, she decided to walk kids to school every day, taking on hardened criminals by bringing laughter back to the streets.
The Walking Bus initiative was first started nationally in 2016, and Van Wyk brought it to her home in a stand against the gangs’ hold on her community. “I know what it feels like to lose family to gangsterism,” she says. “Gangsters don’t care about what time of day it is. Even when our kids are walking to school in the mornings, there are shootings.” But now each morning local volunteers wearing neon vests announce their arrival with the blow of a whistle. The bus grows as kids filter in to march with their friends. The volunteers keep an eye on the school and surrounding areas for any possible danger. When the bell rings, the convoy forms once more. Included in the bus is Tyrese, who is now able to attend school without fear. “With the Walking Bus, he can focus on his friends and homework,” Van Wyk says.
The Walking Bus also ensures that kids are not bringing any weapons or drugs to school, and monitors any bullying. The results are clear. Gang members avoid the bus’ path, and school attendance has risen. In 2017, Van Wyk was awarded Neighbourhood Watch Member of the Year for her commitment to her people. “It means a lot to the community to know that people are voluntarily fighting crime and injustice,” she says.