School travel ban ‘too emotional’

2012-09-18 00:00

EDUCATION MEC Senzo Mchunu’s ban on long-distance school outings has received mixed reactions.

Most schools that were contacted by The Witness yesterday were unable to comment on the matter as they had not received an official circular from the Education Department.

However, principal of kwaMpungose Primary in Edendale, Sipho Ntenza, said he agreed with the ban.

“They should be banned especially at this time [of the year] because children should focus on their studies.”

The Democratic Alliance said the MEC’s decision was “a cry from a man desperate in the face of a department unwilling or unable to take responsible action at their level of authority”.

DA education spokesperson Tom Stokes said: “Despite there being a detailed and clear line of responsibility for the management of school excursions — which includes clear lines of accountability when things go wrong — it seems that … it is necessary for the MEC to micro-manage.”

But Stokes conceded the decision was “perfectly understandable” in the face of the recurring tragedies.

More than 30 pupils have died on KZN roads this year.

Stokes believes that principals should be held accountable should anything go wrong.

“It is a principal’s responsibility to ensure that every vehicle used for transporting every learner is roadworthy, that it is not overloaded and that it is suitable for the planned trip,” he said.

National Association of School Governing Bodies chairperson Reginald Chiliza said the MEC’s call was a good one, but it was too emotional and lacked consultation.

“As a parent it’s sad to send your child to a school trip and they don’t return home,” said Chiliza.

He told The Witness he had already received numerous calls from parents asking about money they had already spent on matric dances.

He said the immediate solutions were to ensure that vehicles that transport pupils are roadworthy and increased police visibility.

The chief executive of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA in KZN, Anthony Pierce, said it was necessary for the MEC to ban all school trips for a short while an attempt was made to deal with the issue.

“One more death is one too many. Every weekend the MEC has to attend a funeral,” said Pierce.

“If this gap is meant to look at a long-term solution, then he has our blessing.”

However, he said Mchunu needed to consult widely and the department needed to work with the Transport Department.

One company affected by the ban is Challenge Tours, which runs team-building and leadership courses for pupils. Directors Dave Allen and Alfred Eden said their camp was expecting 91 pupils, but the school cancelled the trip after the ban.

Tomorrow they are expecting 160 pupils.

Eden said they worked solely with schools.

“We employ people from the grassroots and we might be forced to close our doors. What do I tell the people? That they now don’t have jobs because of a car accident?” Eden asked.

They fear they may have to lay off 20 staff members.

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