No buses for displaced pupils

2010-07-14 21:30

Nelspruit - Nearly 200 pupils displaced by the Mbombela stadium in Mpumalanga have not attended school since Tuesday because their scholar transport buses failed to fetch them.

When construction started on the 2010 soccer stadium in Mataffin outside the provincial capital in 2006, a number of residents were evicted from their homes and relocated 25km away to a place called Phumulani village near Rocky Drift.

They were placed in RDP houses and promised that scholar transport would be provided for their children.

One parent, Daphney Nkosi, said that when the new term started on Tuesday, the buses failed to collect any of the 197 pupils who attend Cyril Clark High School and John Mdluli Primary School in Mataffin.

"This is not the first time our children were left stranded. Ever since we were forced to this area in 2007, there have been times when the buses don't come and our children have to hitch-hike.

"If we confront the transport owner, we are told that the relevant department has not paid them," said Nkosi on Wednesday.

She said the transport operator sometimes took only 99 of the 197 children on board, claiming that he was paid only to transport that number of children.

Provincial education spokesperson Jasper Zwane said the department would follow up the matter and make sure that "whoever is responsible for this mess, answers".

"The report we have here is that all our 1 849 schools opened without any challenges on Tuesday. We had no idea that there was a transport challenge in Phumulani.

"If this has to do with claims that the transport operator was not paid, I would categorically say that this is not true because the department has paid service providers. Whoever is responsible for this mess should be taken to task,” said Zwane on Wednesday.

He said the department pays transport operators 30 days after they submit their invoices.

"Transport operators who have not been paid must come forward to avoid inconveniencing our children," he said.

Violent protests

Education has been severely disrupted for pupils from the Mataffin schools in the past four years.

In 2006 they were booted out of their solidly built brick and mortar schools into stuffy prefabricated buildings so that the stadium engineers could use their schools as offices.

The children were promised two new schools in 2007. When the new schools had still not materialised by last year, the children and parents protested violently in October last year.

They also discouraged workers at the stadium from entering the site, and threatened to disrupt construction unless they received their new schools as promised.

Some protesters were injured when police were forced to fire rubber bullets at them.

Calm was finally restored in the area in April this year when the new schools were handed over to the community.

Cyril Clarke secondary school has 20 classrooms, a state-of-the-art laboratory, administration block, library, assembly hall, computer centre and a kitchen.

The new John Mdluli Primary has 16 classrooms, 20 toilets and similar facilities to those of Cyril Clark Secondary.