The Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal was yesterday, 7 November 2017 taken to Pietermaritzburg High Court by the representatives of Equal Education in what they referred to as refusal by the Department to provide learner transport to 12 schools in Nquthu, under uMzinyathi district.
Judgment was by consent at the Pietermaritzburg High Court whereby the Department of Education and Department of Transport must report back to the Court on 1 April 2018, and provide information on the following:
1. The status of the KZN Scholar Transport Policy;
2. The plans that the two Departments will make to address the issue of scholar transport in the Province more broadly, and the criteria used to determine the need for the provision of scholar transport, and
3. The alternative modes of transport that the two departments will consider.
The Court also ruled that 12 affected schools be considered for Learner Transport from 1 April 2018. As the department we have noted the court judgment and we will still study its findings.
The Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal has never refused to provide school transport; in fact it has been providing dedicated subsidized learner transport to deserving learners since 2008. The demand for this service increases each year and the Department is struggling to cope due to financial constraints.
In this current financial year alone, the department has allocated a total of R195 million to learner transport which only benefits 47000 learners out of the 90000 that qualify for this intervention programme due to budgetary constraints.
We will continue to work closely with our sister Department of Transport in the province. One of their key roles will be to check school transport for roadworthiness as we do not wish to expose our learners to unnecessary risks.
By South African standards, in order for any learner to qualify for school transport, that learner must be walking for more than 6km to the school of need. The department has managed to meet this requirement despite the fact that we have limited resources and considering the geographical setup of our province which is mostly rural.
Having learners walking long distances to school could result in poor attendance and performance by learners in deep rural and far areas. As a system we are well on track to help change the situation.
"We remain committed to improving access to education, and learner attendance in schools through provision of adequate transport. Good school attendance ultimately contributes to good academic performance" said MEC Dlungwana.
Issued by: KwaZulu-Natal Education