Wits has introduced a transportation system to help alleviate the stresses of traveling from campus late at night.

Students at Wits University now have access to an after-hours transport facility to ensure they reach their Braamfontein residences safely.

The Student Representative Council (SRC) in collaboration with Wits Protection Services (WPS) launched the service of an escort vehicle on Thursday, August 1, following concerns about students walking to their off-campus accommodation in the dark.

SRC campus wellness and advisory officer Katlego Sera told Wits Vuvuzela that the idea came from the problem of students walking in large numbers with only one security guard at night.

“The fear that we had as an SRC was, what if something happens to a student while they are walking with a security guard, because he is unarmed, and he is alone. Then campus control told us that they are willing to use their vehicle [to escort the students home],” he said.

The nine-seater vehicle transports students from the main campus to surrounding areas in Braamfontein, starting at Station Street, going all the way to Wolmarans Street and circling back to Wits.

Sera explained that the escort system remains exactly as it was before except that students are now driven in a vehicle as opposed to being escorted on foot. Students go to the WPS control room on the ground floor of Robert Sobukwe Building (formerly Central Block) and request a security escort. The students can ask to be dropped anywhere along the designated route.  Stanley Modisha, the WPS supervisor who worked on the escort service, said the routes were chosen based on where many of the students live.

The drivers who are WPS officers have undergone vetting to ensure they are familiar with the route and had their driving skills assessed, according to one Ronny Tshuma, one of the drivers. Only those up to standard are permitted to drive the escort vehicle like Tshuma who has over 30 years’ experience as a driver.

Mbuyekezo Njeje, a PhD candidate at Wits who has used the service, described it as a necessity.

“Most students stay in the centre of Braamfontein, but the fact that [the escort vehicle] goes to the furthest points of Braamfontein is a great thing for everyone. I was very impressed with everything,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.

Basetsana Seabe, a Wits civil engineering student, who has used the system multiple times since it commenced said, “I think it’s necessary, mainly because of safety and it’s quick. In the past, when we were walking we would get intimidation from drunk people on the road and the security would tell us that he is scared too.”

Sera, who went on the very first ride after the service was launched, said the route is good but may need to be altered according to the needs of students.

The vehicle makes the approximately 20-minute trip once an hour, from 17:00 to 05:00, seven days a week.

FEATURED IMAGE: Mbuyekezo Njeje, a Wits student, waiting to use the escort service.
Photo: Gemma Gatticchi