The Eastern Cape Scholar Transport programme should be removed from the Department of Transport and placed back under the Department of Education as a matter of urgency.
The Transport portfolio committee report tabled last week revealed that the Department had failed to account for R55.5 million for Scholar Transport, as there were inadequate supporting documents to substantiate the expenses incurred.
It cannot be that millions of rands go unspent, while children have to brave the elements, walk through the cold, the rain and open veld, where their lives are in danger, just to get a quality education.
This is simply unacceptable, as there are in excess of 30,000 learners in the Eastern Cape who live further than 10km from their closest school, who qualify for Scholar Transport, and who currently do not receive any assistance. This is double the prescribed distance of 5km set out by the national policy.
Currently, in the Eastern Cape 81,582 learners from 753 schools are provided with transport through 1 989 operators, but this only accounts for 71% of the total demand.
While the Department of Transport is the implementing agent, the funding is received from the Department of Education. It should be noted that the Department of Education is best placed to coordinate the Scholar Transport programme, as it has first-hand knowledge of which learners are most at need.
It is also responsible for the planning, as well as implementing, of the rationalisation programme of schools, which has a direct impact on learners that will require transportation, if their school is closed.
The Democratic Alliance will keep advocating in both the Transport and Education portfolio committees for the programme to be moved back to Education.
I will also be tabling a motion in the next sitting of the Legislature, calling for the Scholar Transport programme to be returned to the Education Department.