Transport snag could leave pupils stranded

The Mercury - - NEWS - Thami Magubane

PLANS by the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion to take over the func­tion of pro­vid­ing transport to pupils have hit a snag after the ten­der was chal­lenged by the los­ing bid­ders.

The pupil transport pro­gramme aims to help pupils who have to travel long dis­tances to school.

The func­tion is cur­rently man­aged by the De­part­ment of Transport (DoT) and was sup­posed to have been taken over by the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion at the end of the month.

“Mem­bers of the (ed­u­ca­tion) port­fo­lio com­mit­tee were told re­cently that the new ten­der process had been halted due to more than 15 ap­peals hav­ing been re­ferred to the Bid Ad­ju­di­ca­tion Tri­bunal in Trea­sury,” said DA MPL and spokesper­son on Ed­u­ca­tion, Dr Rishi­gen Vi­ranna.

He said this could present se­ri­ous chal­lenges for pupils in des­per­ate need of transport.

“The meet­ing has also re­vealed that the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment will not take over the man­date at the end of June, as pre­vi­ously planned. In­stead, it will have to trans­fer funds to the Transport De­part­ment each month to keep ex­ist­ing ser­vices up and run­ning,” he said.

A few months ago, the de­part­ment, as the cus­to­dian of ed­u­ca­tion mat­ters, was taken to court by ad­vo­cacy group Equal Ed­u­ca­tion (EE) to force it to pro­vide transport to pupils in Nquthu who were forced to travel long dis­tances to school.

Cher­ity Se­bopela of EE in KwaZulu-Natal said they were not aware of the ten­der is­sue. “We weren’t aware that the bid­ding process had started.”

De­part­ment spokesper­son Kwazi Mthethwa said al­though the transport func­tion had chal­lenges, the de­part­ment would con­tinue to help pupils.

“We have chal­lenges in the bud­get and as the func­tion is un­der-funded.

“We are pro­vid­ing transport to about 75 000 pupils when the tar­get is about 300 000. We’re pro­vid­ing that transport and will con­tinue to do so,” said Mthethwa.

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