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Use technology to save lives in learner transport system

Image: PaylessImages

Just the other day it was Precious Ramabulana who the parents sent to a place of learning, only for her to meet her untimely death.

Today it is the 15-year-old Leticia Jansen who, in the name of learning, has fallen victim to violence against women and children.

While Ramabulana died at the hands of a rapist in unsecured, private student accommodation, Jansen was, according to reports, a victim of another unknown rapist after being failed by the scholar transport system.

Many more have also fallen prey to these hereto unknown acts of barbarism and criminality against the most vulnerable in society - women and children.

When we were lamenting the Jansen story with a female colleague, she was gripped by instant fear and could not help but express her constant worry about the safely of her six-year-old who is on scholar transport.

Indeed, these events grip our collective consciousness with fear.

It's like South Africa has moved from apartheid to criminalheid.

Is there an end in sight to this new form of oppression?

Political will is all we need to solve this problem. Not the political will to catch every criminal mind and lock them up in jail before they could commit a crime, because this not practically attainable.

What is practically attainable, and is within our disposal, is technology.

Surely there is no reason why each bus or minibus transporting scholars cannot be equipped with either a biometric system or RFID (radio frequency identification) scanners where each child can scan themselves in and out of the bus with a finger print or a tag to monitor when they are picked up and dropped off on their way to and from school. Such a system can also send alerts to parents, keeping them informed of their children's whereabouts, and reporting exceptions to relevant authorities.

Similarly, children could be tracked on entering and leaving school premises, and even classes.

Had the grandmother of Jansen known that she did not make it into the school bus - through an automated alert - she would not have waited an entire day thinking the child is at school. She would have acted immediately, hopefully before the perpetrators could have their way with the child.

Institutions such as the University of Free State (QwaQwa campus) already use this technology to track the movements of students between residences and the campus, and it is of great benefit to the students, university management and the transporters

Through an app students can see when the bus is approaching, while management pays transporters for actual trips they have made. Transporters, on the other hand, can access onboard data such as driver behaviour, fuel consumption and actual work done.

So, what is government waiting for? Well, your guess is as good as mine. We do not know how many more Ramabulanas and Jansens we must have before it says enough is enough, and acts.

Holeni is a group chief advisor at Ntiyiso Consulting Group, owners of Tickipay Payment Services who also supply scholar transport technology

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