Pupils call for ‘proper’ national scholar transport policy

2016-04-01 10:30
Members of Equal Education and pupils protest outside the Department of Education offices in Pietermaritzburg.

Members of Equal Education and pupils protest outside the Department of Education offices in Pietermaritzburg. (Sabelo Nsele, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Pupils from Nquthu on Thursday took a stand to protest against the long distances they and other schoolchildren in the province have to walk to school.

The upbeat pupils marched to the Department of Education head offices in Pietermaritzburg to demand the “proper” implementation of the national scholar transport policy. The march, which was organised by Equal Education under the banner #LongWalkToEducation, began on Wednesday at New Hanover, 38 kilometres away.

One of the pupils, Sibongakonke Khoza, said they are compelled to walk long distances to and from schools while their “Model C” school counterparts are provided with luxuries. “We know they are transported by expensive buses and are provided with transport for sports and school trips. That is luxury,” she said.

The pupils demanded emergency relief for the 11 schools in Nquthu that qualify for scholar transport.

They also called on the KZN Education Department, and provincial and national Treasury to allocate sufficient funding to the provision of scholar transport and for a conditional grant to fund scholar transport.

Reading a memorandum, pupil Siphesihle Khumalo 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 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; 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.

Owami Nzimande said pupils in Nquthu were walking between three kilometres and 12 km to get to school, and the same number of kilometres home.

“Children as young as seven are leaving home before 6.30 am to arrive at school before the first lesson begins.

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

Department of Education deputy director-general Judy Dlamini said the walking of long distances by the pupils, “is unpleasant”. “What we are saying is that there is a policy [national scholar transport] that we need to take into account. We also have to look at our budget allocation,” she said.

Equal Education national organiser Luyolo Mazwembe said if the department does not respond to their demands by April 5, they will be back at the department’s offices.

• sabelo.nsele@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  pupils  |  protest  |  school

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