Overhaul scholar transport, say opposition

THE Eastern Cape scholar transport system has again come under scrutiny following a bakkie accident earlier this week which claimed the lives of four pupils in the Transkei.

Four pupils died in a bakkie accident in Flagstaff just weeks after six pupils were killed in a bakkie accident in Libode.

In Flagstaff, the bakkie was contracted by parents because their town was not catered for by the government’s scholar transport.

Opposition parties and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) have now called for changes in the way the scholar transport scheme is run.

Sadtu Eastern Cape secretary Mncekeleli Ndongeni said pupils who had to travel long distances risked being attacked.

COPE’s education spokeswoman in the Eastern Cape, Angela Woodall, said the system was failing in a number areas.

“The department has this 5km rule … but when we visit schools they say it is only good during dry weather,” she said, explaining that rainy weather made it difficult for pupils because of bad access roads and bridges in rural areas.

She added that the fact that some areas were not covered meant parents had to hire private transport even if it was substandard.

UDM provincial secretary Wandile Tsipa suggested that the province could even hire a private company to manage the scholar transport system.

“As far as we know, the funds are there but there is no proper management of those funds,” said Tsipa.

The DA’s Veliswa Mvenya said the problem with the scholar transport tender was that too much focus was put on who was benefiting and their BEE credentials, leading to neglect of pupils.

Eastern Cape transport spokesman Ncedo Kumbaca said since they took the scholar transport scheme over from the education department last year, they had improved the system a lot.

“Now we know who is transporting the pupils, and we know all the pick-up points,” said Kumbaca.

“We have 120 000 learners who need transport but with our resources we can only transport 54 471,” he said, adding that the department had made numerous pleas to the treasury for an increase in funding. — aphiwed@dispatch.co.za