KZN pupils walk due to ‘fis­cal con­straints’

The Witness - - FRONT PAGE - KERUSHUN PILLAY and VIN­CENT MADLOPHA

ABOUT 90 000 school pupils in KwaZulu­Natal re­quire trans­port to and from school but the provin­cial Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion can only af­ford it for about half of them.

A depart­ment of­fi­cial told a sit­ting of the provin­cial leg­is­la­ture’s port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion that “fis­cus con­straints” meant trans­port could not be pro­vided to all pupils.

Last year ac­tivist or­gan­i­sa­tion Equal Ed­u­ca­tion took the depart­ment to the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg high court, de­mand­ing that it pro­vide trans­port for pupils at 12 schools in Nquthu.

The court ruled that the depart­ment would have to pro­vide trans­port for those pupils from April 1.

A depart­ment spokesper­son yes­ter­day ad­mit­ted to The Wit­ness that there was a bud­get prob­lem, but said it should be able to pro­vide for all pupils with­out trans­port in the new fi­nan­cial year, which starts in April.

Mila Kakaza, a spokesper­son for Equal Ed­u­ca­tion, said na­tional Depart­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion fig­ures con­firmed there were 90 000 pupils in need of trans­port in KZN, but only 47 747 pupils were pro­vided for in the 2017/2018 fi­nan­cial year. This left 42 253 pupils with­out trans­port to school and back.

She said re­search com­mis­sioned by the In­ter­na­tional Bud­get Part­ner­ship (IBP) showed that 350 162 KZN pupils were in need of trans­port, which leaves 302 415 pupils still in the lurch.

She added, how­ever, that the depart­ment’s data may be com­pletely wrong.

Kakaza said: “Teach­ers at the schools that we work with have re­peat­edly spo­ken of how walk­ing long dis­tances to school means [pupils] be­ing late and miss­ing out on class time, and be­ing too tired to con­cen­trate in class.”

She said Equal Ed­u­ca­tion would only con­sider le­gal ac­tion against the depart­ment if con­sis­tent lob­by­ing yielded a poor re­sponse.

Kakaza said Equal Ed­u­ca­tion was ad­vo­cat­ing a “con­di­tional grant” sys­tem to fund pupil trans­port, which would en­sure funds al­lo­cated to de­part­ments are used for that spe­cific pur­pose.

DA spokesper­son on ed­u­ca­tion in the prov­ince, Dr Rishi­gen Vi­ranna, claimed the depart­ment had not yet con­ducted a proper au­dit of the num­ber of pupils in KZN, and the pro­por­tion of those who need trans­port. “The MEC for Ed­u­ca­tion [Mthandeni Dlung­wana] must take re­spon­si­bil­ity and find out how many pupils are in need of trans­port, then sub­mit the au­dit to na­tional depart­ment. Other prov­inces have done it and they now have the bud­get for trans­port­ing pupils to schools,” he said.

Depart­ment spokesper­son Scelo Khuzwayo said: “The depart­ment is aware that scholar trans­port has not reached all schools yet be­cause of the depart­ment’s bud­get. We are hop­ing to im­prove the num­ber of ben­e­fi­cia­ries as soon as our fi­nan­cial year com­mences.”

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