More than two dozen North West schools still face pupil transport challenges

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At least 28 North West schools are still dealing with transport issues. (iStock)
At least 28 North West schools are still dealing with transport issues. (iStock)

More than two dozen schools in the North West are still experiencing transport challenges, with authorities claiming residents in some areas are using the issue as a service delivery bargaining chip.

The North West Department of Community Safety and Transport Management has confirmed that there are some schools that still experience pupil transport challenges.

However, the department claims that the number of schools affected has been reduced.

In a statement on Friday, spokesperson Alpheus Koonyaditse said that - out of the 380 schools in the province that the department provides transport to - 28 are still affected.

"Dr Kenneth Kaunda and Bojanala districts have the highest number with nine and 10 respectively and these are being attended to. The lowest is the Ngaka Modiri Molema district with four schools, followed by the Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati district with five.

"The challenges were exacerbated by some operators who just abandon the routes agreed upon without notifying the department," said Koonyaditse.

"In the Dr Kenneth Kaunda district, some operators allegedly stopped operations at the behest of the community who threatened to torch their buses," said Botlhale Mofokeng, who is the head of the department.

'Learners used as bargaining tool'

"In other areas like Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati, problems were not that there was no learner transport. The community use learners as a protest bargaining tool for service delivery by preventing them from going to school," she said. 

"The department acknowledges [a] delay in payments, but towards the end of January, the processing of payments had been expedited. Of the 197 operators who have taken the month-to-month contract, only a few are still owed more than six months' [payment]. Outstanding payments are from October 2019 only," said MEC Sello Lehari, who had ordered that backlog payment be expedited before the end of 2019/20 fiscus.

He said the department has received a few invoices for January and February 2020, and those claims are being prioritised.

Mofokeng expressed gratitude to transport operators who have been patient and continued to transport pupils despite myriad financial challenges experienced.

"The department has also been notified that there are operators who have not accepted the offer nor signed contracts and yet continue to transport learners. This has a potential not only to cause an audit query, but further cause delays in effecting payments.

"The department appeals to such operators to engage the relevant officials as a matter of urgency to resolve their issues," said Mofokeng. 

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