The Department of Basic Education (DBE) with the Department of Transport today briefed Parliament's Standing Committee on Appropriations (SCOA) on progress made in the provision of learner transport.
The development of the learner transport policy was a response to a realisation of a policy gap relating to the provision of the service. Challenges experienced in the implementation of the policy included no services at all, unsafe and insecure methods that were used, uncoordinated services, unscrupulous operations and non-standardised operations. The policy was approved in June 2015.
The National Learner Transport Policy provides that learner transport planning and implementation require multi-sectoral coordination and approach where various government departments play significant roles. This recognises that there are two departments at national and provincial level that are responsible for the provision of learner transport.
The Appropriations Committee looks at value for money in terms of the implementation of the Budget allocation for learner transport.
Some of the challenges reported to the committee was insufficient funding for the provision of learner transport. While some Provinces have been able to allocate additional funding for the service, there is a need to comprehensively evaluate the programme performance in terms of its efficacy/ efficiency and to determine funding requirements and mechanisms. It was reported to the Committee that the evaluation of the programme will assist in determining this.
Another major challenge is that the function resides in multiple departments. The provision of learner transport function is shared by Department of Transport and Education. Co-ordination and oversight of the function between two departments is a challenge. The evaluation would make a recommendation on the proposed department that would be responsible for the function.
The evaluation proposed would address some of the other challenges identified, such as uniformity around contracting and remuneration, issues around the rationalisation of schools, and issues relating to distance and terrain that require learners to be provided transport.
The purpose of this evaluation is to assess the implementation of the scholar transport programme, the efficacy of the funding model and whether learners are transported safely and on time. Additionally, this evaluation should show how funding and expenditure impacts on the programme. The evaluation will encompass the mandate and reach of the Scholar Transport Implementation Programme. The data will be reviewed from 2011/12 to 2016/17 financial years. The evaluation service provider has been appointed, the steering committee has been constituted, data collection and interviews with different stakeholders is in progress and the project is expected to be completed in June 2018.
According to the General Household survey a lack of transport is not commonly reported as the reason for learners, of school going age, not attending school. However most learners still walk to school (69%), but nationally only 11% of these walk longer than 30 minutes to school. Walking long distances to school is most prevalent in KZN province. Both Departments are confident that the evaluation report of the programme will assist greatly in addressing some of the current hurdles in implementing the policy fully as well as the possible ring fencing of the budget for scholar transport.
Issued by: Department of Basic Education