As part of their continued efforts for quality and equality in the South African education system, Equal Education(EE) recently hosted a public discussion and screening of a short film in Khayelitsha.
Isivivana Centre was the venue for the screening of the film titled Long Walk to School, which was shot in 2015.
The documentary follows the story of two young learners, Siphilele Thusini and Nompilo Zungu, from rural KwaZulu Natal who have to walk more than an hour to get to school.
In the film, the two share their challenges on the journey to school, often in the dark.
It also reveals the advocacy work that is being carried out by EE to pressure the department of education to provide transport for the learners.
The speakers at the event were EE Deputy General Secretary Ntuthuzo Ndzomo, researcher and writer Nomboniso Gasa as well as Siphilele Thusini who is featured on the video.
According to Ndzomo the organisation stumbled on this problem of rural learners when they visited KZN on another related cause.
“At the time our mandate was to get the minister of basic education to give a norms and standards for schools infrastructure. While were working, we were told that there was a big problem with transport as there were no buses to ferry these young learners,” he said.
Ndzomo said that they then started a campaign to get buses for 15 schools in the Nquthu area, but so far only three(schools) have received buses.
“These young learners travel long distances and they face many challenges. Female learners are often harassed and one was even sexually assaulted on their way to school,” he said.
Thusini who obtained his matric last year said that it had been a tough road despite his school receiving the bus others were still yearning for.
“My call would be for government to increase the funds allocated to education so that there is money for transport for learners.
Walking a long distance before arriving at school is not nice and it can be quite dangerous especially for young girls who are preyed upon.
We also had the case of a teacher who was driving his own car, but was swept away during a flooding, that is how dangerous it is,” he said.
Gasa said that it was clear that the learners were not valued and cared for despite government officials waxing lyrical about the importance of education.
“I am saddened that this is still happening years into our democracy. I believe that transport doesn’t just stop at the buses but includes other hurdles that young people face such as not having textbooks because government fails to deliver.”