Pupils embark on #LongWalkToEducation march

2016-03-31 11:01
Pupils get ready to take part in #LongWalkToEducation which started in New Hanover and will finish in Pietermaritzburg

Pupils get ready to take part in #LongWalkToEducation which started in New Hanover and will finish in Pietermaritzburg (Supplied)

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Pietermaritzburg - Members of Equal Education began a protest march from New Hanover, 38 kilometres outside Pietermaritzburg, to the city on Wednesday.

The march by pupils and parents, under the banner #LongWalkToEducation, is expected to finish today at the offices of the Department of Education, where MEC Peggy Nkonyeni is due to receive a memorandum.

Equal Education national organiser Luyolo Mazwembe said the walk was organised to highlight the dire state of transportation for pupils across the country.

Mazwembe said there are more than two million primary and secondary school pupils in KZN alone who walk all the way to school.

“Of these pupils, more than 210 000 walk for more than an hour in one direction, while a further 659 000 pupils walk for between 30 minutes to one hour.

“Against these figures, only 22 045 pupils in KZN are being provided with transport services. Despite KZN having the greatest demand for pupil transport, it currently spends less than all other provinces on pupil transport, with the exception of only the Free State, Limpopo and Northern Cape provinces, although the Northern Cape still provides transportation to more pupils than KZN.

“In the 2013/2014 financial year, the KZN government budgeted a meagre R125 million for pupil transport, compared to R336 million budgeted by the Eastern Cape government, which has the second-highest number of pupils walking to school,” he said.

Mazwembe said Equal Education and the Equal Education Law Centre had visited Nquthu in 2014, and discovered that pupils there were walking between three kilometres and 12 km to get to school, and the same number of kilometres home.

“Children as young as seven were leaving home before 6.30 am to arrive at school before the first lesson of the day began.

“Along the way to school these pupils faced all sorts of dangers, including being raped or robbed, and having to cross swollen rivers,” he said.

The walk paused yesterday at Albert Falls, and will resume from Brookside Mall today.

Last week, The Witness reported that Transport MEC Willies Mchunu had questioned whether his department had the capacity to continue with the pupil transport programme.

Mchunu said the demand for pupil transport “far exceeded” the department’s capacity.

The department revealed that it would need R4,5 billion, almost half of its budget, to fund all pupils in the province who travel more than six kilometres to and from their nearest school.

Currently the department has budgeted R186 million for the programme, which will provide the service to 316 schools and 43 990 pupils.

• sabelo.nsele@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  pupils  |  march

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