Department’s blunder leaves 29 314 scholar transport beneficiaries out in the cold

The Eastern Cape has yet to apply for its portion of additional funding from the National Treasury to cover the shortfall in the 2017-18 scholar transport budget, which totals R639 943 941 for all provinces.

According to a reply to a question by the DA in the National Assembly to the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, the Eastern Cape is one of six provinces that failed to apply for additional funding.  For the reply, click here:  Reply to NA question 1663 Scholar Trasport budget shortfall

In a presentation on 23 May 2017 by the Department of Basic Education to the Parliament’s Committees of Basic Education and Transport it emerged that the Eastern Cape had the biggest shortfall, of R189-million.  This is to cover the 29 314 learners in the province who should be benefitting for scholar transport but, instead, they continue to face the daily toil of having to walk long distances to school.   For the relevant pages in the presentation, click here:  Presentation on Scholar Transport May 2017

This blunder is symptomatic of an uncaring government that is destroying the hopes and aspiration of thousands of learners.

A total of 106 551 children in the province qualify for transport to school, of which  77 237 or 72.49% of learners benefit from the scholar transport programme.  This puts the Eastern Cape at the bottom after KwaZulu-Natal (53.05%) and North West (69.13%).

The opportunity to apply to the national fiscus for additional funding may have greatly reduced the backlog that the Eastern Cape Department of Transport currently faces.  We could have been in the same league as the Western Cape, Gauteng and Free State, where 100% of beneficiaries get scholar transport.

This province has seen many protests from upset parents whose children should qualify for scholar transport but who lose out on this service due to a lack of government funds.

Unlike the ANC, the Democratic Alliance cares about the education of our Eastern Cape scholars.  Without proper management of the scholar transport system, many learners will not be able to realise their right to basic education.

I have written to the Chairperson of the Transport Portfolio Committee in the legislature, Ntombizodwa Xhanti, requesting that Transport MEC Weziwe Tikana urgently report on this oversight at the next committee meeting. We also expect the MEC to explain her plan to resolve this blunder and to get the additional funding so desperately needed from the National Department.

This is particularly so at a time when we remember Tata Nelson Mandela.  His words ring true that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. — Marshall von Buchenroder MPL, Shadow MEC for Transport