The deaths of four children from Jikindaba Senior Secondary School near Flagstaff must be attributed to poor planning and -management by the Eastern Cape Department of Transport.
This accident involved a privately owned vehicle not contracted to the scholar transport plan.
However, why the parents had to use this private transport in desperation because departmental scholar transport had been discontinued three years ago, is of concern.
I will be asking the MEC for Transport, Thandiswa Marawu, for school transport statistics and why scholar transport has been suspended from a major community hub like Flagstaff.
In addition, I have this week, prior to this accident, written to the MEC asking her pertinent questions around accident and safety statistics of scholar transport in the province.
In reply to a parliamentary question from the MEC on 15 April 2012 I was informed that vehicles transporting school children must be tested for road worthiness every six months and drivers must have COF a Certificate of Fitness. For the reply, click here.
It is clear from recent accidents — such as the incident last month in which six pupils of the Mabelengwe Senior Secondary School in Libode died — that this requirement is being flouted. The MEC must explain why.
It is unfortunate that not every child can be transported with the scholar transport system from the department.
However, the DA believes that unnecessary accidents and deaths like this can be avoided if the department utilises other creative ways of transporting school children, for example by appointing additional independent transport operators.
This would create opportunities for empowerment for vehicle operators to start and manage a small business. Competition would create competitiveness, improve efficiency and drive down prices.
In addition, the department needs to find creative ways with the Department of Education to ensure our children can access school without having to rely on inefficient and dangerous transport.
Such initiatives could include the establishment of schools nearer to communities and home-based boarding, creating yet more opportunities for business.
The days of cosy, closed school transport cabals and monopolies with the department must end and must be replaced with cost effective, safe and reliable transport from as many stakeholders as possible.
For comment in isiXhosa relating to this statement, contact the DA provincial spokesperson Veliswa Mvenya, on 082 418 7916.