46 199 pupils need transport: Daily Dispatch

Qualify to be included in department’s scheme but left high and dry

THE Eastern Cape government has allocated R462-million to ferry 67 801 pupils this financial year.

However, an additional 46 199 schoolchildren who qualify for scholar transport will not be transported to their respective schools.

Yesterday, DA MPL Marshall von Buchenroder said he had written to transport MEC Weziwe Tikana and provincial transport portfolio committee chairwoman Ntombizodwa Xhanti to request an investigation into whether the current cost of R6 800 a pupil was viable.

Von Buchenroder said he also wanted to know whether remedial action could be taken to ensure that more pupils would benefit from the scholar transport programme.

“This is part of the reason why the Eastern Cape comes bottom of the matric class in the country. The picture of hungry learners walking long distances in the dark and sometimes in the rain and other adverse weather conditions has to stop,” said Von Buchenroder.

“What we have to do is stop the profiteers – that is, people being enriched unjustifiably – so we can transport more pupils. This is not a get-rich scheme; it is a get-a-learner-to-school scheme.”

Tikana revealed in her policy speech to the Bhisho legislature on Wednesday last week that a total of 114 000 Eastern Cape school children required scholar transport.

“The implications of closure, merger and alignment of schools has escalated the current demand from 98 000 of last year to 114 000 learners who are in need of scholar transport,” Tikana said.

In response to questions by Von Buchenroder at the legislature on Thursday last week, Tikana said the department did not hire additional scholar transport operators.

“The department has contracted 1 628 scholar transport operators based on available resources.

“The process was planned in the financial year resource allocation and did not exceed the allocation which was provided for the year under review,” she said.

Von Buchenroder said he was shocked by Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu’s report on scholar transport challenges in 2014.

The Daily Dispatch reported on Monday that, according to Makwetu’s report, taxpayers in 2014 were paying more than R30-million to transport single pupils from 331 different pick-up points in the Eastern Cape at a cost of R91 500 per child.

“This is an indication that something is very wrong with the system. Clearly we are not getting value for money,” said Von Buchenroder.

UDM MPL Thando Mpulu said the provincial government would have to build hostels to deal with scholar transport challenges. “Our proposal has been that building hostels will eliminate this expense and this has a multiplier effect because the infrastructure will provide a learning environment 24/7 for learning.”

He said the department did not have the capacity and competency to deal with the logistical requirements to transport schoolchildren.

Mpulu said he had found that a lot of pupils were not being transported to schools. In some cases “one [sibling] will be left, while another will be picked up”, Mpulu said.

Attempts were made to get comment from ANC provincial spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane, Xhanti, education portfolio committee chairman Fundile Gade, transport provincial spokesman Ncedo Kumbaca and provincial education spokesman Loyiso Pulumani, but responses had not been received at the time of going to print. — msindisif@dispatch.co.za