The introduction of Elephant Express buses for the eastern panhandle communities in the Okavango has improved school attendance and the safety of children who commute to schools in the wildlife infested area.
This has been revealed by different stakeholders in the area, whose service provision has benefitted from the buses.
The Elephant Express buses were donated by Natural Selection Travel and Uncharted Africa Mobile Safari two years ago to provide safe transport for children and clinic staff across frequently used elephant corridors.
The buses are co-managed by the Okavango Community Trust and Ecoexist who identified the need for the buses to promote coexistence between wildlife and the communities. The buses serve the communities of Mokgacha, Seronga, Gunotsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa.
The success of the buses in improving school attendance, and improving access to health services in the eastern panhandle was also highlighted at a recent meeting between the different stakeholders.
According to Botshelo Sesinyi of Okavango Community Trust, the meeting was attended by representatives from Natural Selection Conservation Trust, Unchartered Africa Safaris, primary health, schools and PTAs.
Beetsha Primary School Head, Kewafe Tshwaolesele has appreciated that since the buses started ferrying children to school, the attendance and performance of their students has improved. He added that ever then they have also not received any incidents of animal attacks because the buses provide safe transportation for their students.
Gunotsoga Primary School Head also concurred that the buses play a very critical role in terms of improving the academic results and class attendance of their students. She applauded the donors for providing a free and safe transport for the learners.
Seronga Clinic medical officer, Guy Mangi also shared the same sentiments that ever since the operation of the elephant express buses their ability to offer medical services to different communities in the areas has improved. Mangi noted that they have since established a monthly schedule which they use to assign their health officers to reach the villages for medical attention using the buses.
“The midwives are now able to assist pregnant women in the communities using the same buses,” he added.
It appears, however that the two buses are overwhelmed by the demand between the 6 villages. He therefore expressed the need for more buses to make more community outreach.
The donation of the buses had come with P42 000 worth of fuel cover, and wages for the drivers.