THOUSANDS of pupils in the Eastern Cape could be left without transport to school amid fears the budgeted R210-million scholar transport contract will run dry by October.

On Wednesday transport MEC Thandiswa Marawu, who last year awarded the contract to private consortium One Future Development 46 managed by the Eastern Cape Bus and Taxi Business Chamber, admitted to the Eastern Cape Legislature there were challenges besetting the programme.

Transport spokesman Ncedo Kumbaca confirmed that a meeting between the transport, education and treasury departments had been held to discuss the issues.

“We are all waiting for the outcome of that meeting,” Kumbaca said.

Kumbaca said Marawu had told the house that she was “liaising with the department of education and the provincial treasury to address this issue”.

Marawu has also admitted that her department was unable to meet the demand of R120 000 for pupils to be ferried to schools as “the current budget allocation does not allow for the expansion of the programme”.

Treasury spokeswoman Nosisa Sogayisa confirmed the discussions but would not be drawn into commenting further.

Opposition political parties said yesterday they were concerned about the poor administration of the programme.

DA transport spokesman Dacre Haddon said there were concerns that funding would run out by October and children would not be transported to schools until March next year.

“There are funding shortfall concerns with the scholar transport contract. There is a danger that funding will run out. Furthermore, an amount of R134-million will be required to cover the budget shortfall from November 2012 to March 2013.”

Haddon said those pupils, who would not be transported, would be the victims and would fail this year.

The DA has passed a motion in the National Council of Provinces in parliament to alert Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele about looming shortfalls in the province, but no funding had been secured from the treasury as yet, despite the potential effects on learning in the Eastern Cape, Haddon said.

COPE MPL Angela Woodhall said these were the results of a badly managed programme. She said the budget for the programme had been drawn up by the transport department after incorrect data was provided by the education department.

Attempts were made to get a comment from education and the UDM, but were unsuccessful.

This week, three newly-established communities near East London disrupted teaching and learning at Chumani Primary School after they removed their children in an attempt to force Bhisho to provide transport for all the pupils. —