Safe scholar trans­port is a right

Mail & Guardian - - News - Bongek­ile Macupe

Lobby group Equal Ed­u­ca­tion be­lieves the gov­ern­ment has vi­o­lated the right of pupils at 12 schools in Nquthu in north­ern KwaZulu-Natal for fail­ing to provide them with trans­port.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion has been cam­paign­ing for scholar trans­port in the area for about two years.

In the 2016-2017 fi­nan­cial year, the depart­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion said 521 711 pupils re­quired trans­port, but only 419 849 got it. Equal Ed­u­ca­tion be­lieves the num­ber of pupils need­ing trans­port is much higher.

The prov­inces with the big­gest short­fall were KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape. This year 96 714 pupils who should be get­ting trans­port are walk­ing to school, ac­cord­ing to a re­port pre­sented to the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on ba­sis educ­tion.

In March, Equal Ed­u­ca­tion took the KwaZulu-Natal gov­ern­ment to the high court in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg to force them to provide trans­port at the 12 schools. The na­tional min­is­ters of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion, fi­nance and trans­port are also cited as re­spon­dents in the case.

Ac­cord­ing to the court pa­pers, the KwaZulu-Natal depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion has a draft pol­icy on trans­port, which says pupils must be pro­vided with it if they walk more than 3km to school.

In an af­fi­davit, Equal Ed­u­ca­tion’s deputy sec­re­tary Nthuthuzo Nd­zomo wants the depart­ment to ex­plain when the 12 schools will be pro­vided with trans­port and for the court to direct the pro­vin­cial de­part­ments of ed­u­ca­tion and trans­port to ex­plain the sta­tus of the pol­icy on trans­port for schol­ars and if it is not fi­nalised to say when it will be fi­nalised.

Nd­zomo said pupils from the 12 schools qual­ify for trans­port be­cause they walk more than 3km to their near­est school.

In the af­fi­davit, Nd­zomo re­ferred to ac­counts of pupils who had been raped or had to run away from gangs.

“On Thurs­day, 25 Septem­ber 2014, I left school around 16h00. I was on my way home from school with one of the learn­ers at my school. When we were about 1 hour 30 min­utes away from school we were walk­ing in an open area when the man grabbed me.

“The man raped me. I don’t know the man but I saw him some­times walk­ing through our vil­lage … the man raped me un­til 18h30 and then he let me go ... He left and I walked home.”

This was an ac­count of a grade 10 pupil from Hlubi High School.

In its court pa­pers, Equal Ed­u­ca­tion quotes the Na­tional Learner Trans­port Pol­icy re­leased in 2015, which states that: “The abil­ity of learn­ers to ac­cess ed­u­ca­tion is ham­pered by the long dis­tances they have to travel to get to school, threats to their safety and se­cu­rity and the cost of trans­port. Learn­ers have dif­fi­culty ac­cess­ing ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion due to the in­ad­e­quacy of learner trans­port and in­suf­fi­cient schools in ar­eas where they live.”

The pol­icy leaves it up to pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments to de­ter­mine the dis­tance pupils would have to travel to school to ben­e­fit from the scholar trans­port. But pupils who at­tend a par­tic­u­lar school be­cause their par­ents pre­fer it, and not be­cause it’s the near­est, are ex­cluded from the pol­icy.

The KwaZulu-Natal draft pol­icy has been in ex­is­tence since 2013, but at a meet­ing with the gov­ern­ment in April 2015, Equal Ed­u­ca­tion was told the pol­icy had not yet been ap­proved.

Seven of the 12 schools have been ac­knowl­edged by the depart­ment to re­quire trans­port but, ac­cord­ing to Equal Ed­u­ca­tion, the depart­ment has said it can­not provide it be­cause of in­suf­fi­cient funds.

“Again, this has been the re­frain for years, with no sign up to now that any steps will be taken to do any­thing about this ei­ther in the short or medium term,” reads the af­fi­davit.

Equal Ed­u­ca­tion also wants the court to direct the pro­vin­cial depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion to say why five schools on the list have been re­fused trans­port on claims that they are schools of choice. One of the five schools not on the list is Hlinzeka Pri­mary School, the only pri­mary school in Vu­mankala. It is next to Ng­wane High School.

Equal Ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son Leanne Jansen-Thomson said the pro­vin­cial de­part­ments of ed­u­ca­tion, trans­port and fi­nance gave no­tice to op­pose the ap­pli­ca­tion and the state at­tor­ney had said they asked for per­mis­sion to file their an­swer­ing af­fi­davits on July 7.

Last month, the na­tional de­part­ments of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion and trans­port told Par­lia­ment’s port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion that the rea­son trans­port was not be­ing rolled out fully was be­cause prov­inces do not pri­ori­tise it in their bud­gets.

The 12 schools are: Langazela Se­nior Sec­ondary School, Maceba Sec­ondary School, Mgazi Se­nior Sec­ondary School, Ubongu­menzi High School, Hlinzeka Pri­mary School, Hlubi High School, Ma­gogo Pri­mary School, Man­zol­wan­dle Pri­mary School, Ng­wane High School, Hlalele Pri­mary School, Nkun­yana Pri­mary School and Uku­phumla Sec­ondary School.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.