The Department of Transport must take immediate steps to rectify the ongoing issues with Scholar Transport or hand the programme over to the Education Department, which is better suited to identify learners most at need.
The Department has only been able to provide transport for 83 789 of the 111 127 learners who have been identified for assistance.
This means that one out of every four learners, who are unable to get to school without government assistance, are left to their own devices, often stranded at home deprived of an education!
There are also only 752 schools that benefit from the programme, which means the true extent of the need for assistance with transport could be much greater!
In a recent response to a parliamentary question, Transport MEC, Weziwe Tikana Gxothiwe, said her Department was still in the process of contacting scholar transport operators to facilitate transporting learners returning to school in phases, after the initial lockdown.
SEE: IQP 16 Q369
They are so far behind that they are still appointing operators, while schools have been reclosed!
At the very least, the Department should have finalized the phased-in logistics with scholar transport operators before schools reopened at the beginning of July, to ensure that all qualifying learners’ can get to their schools and receive an education.
The current budget allocation of R627,7 million for the Scholar Transport programme is hopelessly insufficient. I am appealing to the MEC to allocate additional budget to the programme as a matter of urgency.
MEC Tikana Gxothiwe must prove that she takes children’s safety seriously by ensuring all children that need scholar transport have access to it.
The new shutdown of schools has given her Department a reprieve. MEC Tikana must now ensure that there are sufficient operators and additional routes, and make sure that learners are transported safely, in line with the national Covid-19 guidelines.
If her Department is unable to do so, then they must hand over the reins to the Education Department, who are better equipped to identify which learners require assistance!
We cannot have a repeat performance of the first school reopening, with thousands of children once again left stranded, missing out on classes, because the Department has forgotten them!
It is simply unacceptable that learners’ must still walk long distances to get to a pickup point. The whole purpose of scholar transport is to prevent this from happening!
The Democratic Alliance will continue working towards a safe scholar transport system in the Eastern Cape.