The Legal Resource Centre (LRC) has served a letter of demand for a budgeted plan for all pupils who are recorded in the SA School Administration and Management System to receive scholar transport by the beginning of the third term.
The letter of demand is addressed to Education Minister Angie Motshekga regarding the failure of the Eastern Cape department of education and the national transport department to provide scholar transport to pupils who need it. If the department fails to confirm that this will be enacted on May 24, the LRC plans to escalate the matter to the courts.
The LRC has received numerous complaints regarding at least 129 pupils who have not been provided with transport. These children are forced to walk long distances to reach school.
“We act for concerned parents at many public schools in the Eastern Cape whose children are not receiving scholar transport, including Kinkelbos Primary School and Spencer Majiba Combined School in Gqeberha, and Khula Community Development Forum project – a community-based nonprofit organisation,” read the letter.
The letter, dated May 5, further states that urgent high court proceedings will ensue should the department fail to provide confirmation of transport within seven days of receiving the letter.
Transport department offers bicycles to pupils
Eastern Cape transport spokesperson Unathi Binqose told City Press that scholar transport remains a joint undertaking between the education and transport departments.
Binqose added that out of the provinces with 125 000 pupils who were eligible for transport, only 10 003 could be accommodated due to budget constraints.
“The department has embarked on an aggressive drive to roll out bicycles to learners who qualify for scholar transport but are unable to get the service due to limited budget.
“[Regarding] transport-related issues at Spencer Mabija in Gqeberha that is cited in the letter, officers on the ground have attended to and addressed the matter. We are working with our partners from the department of education to sort out the problems regarding our learners.”
Meanwhile, Eastern Cape education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said that the department normally helped schools to prepare and submit applications for scholar transport. These forms are submitted to district offices who in turn send them to the provincial department of transport.
“The department then contracts the provider who will transport the learners. In essence, we don’t offer the services and the function was moved from the department more than five years ago.”
According to the letter, hundreds of children in Makhanda who qualify for transport are not receiving it. Transport was discontinued last year for 25 children in Makhanda without explanation.
A further 51 pupils had their scholar transport arrangements cancelled this year, resulting in children dropping out of school because parents couldn’t afford the transport costs.
In Colchester, 31 pupils are not being transported to Kinkelbos Primary School and 87 pupils who are recorded on the SA School Administration and Management System cannot be transported because the bus can only carry 56 pupils.
A lack of scholar transport extends to Gauteng and North West, the LRC revealed.