Sunday, 24 January 2016

Everyday learners from poor, rural areas and disadvantaged communities across the country walk long distances under extreme conditions to school. Access to scholar transport in order to access basic education is a constitutional right. Equal Education (“EE”) and the Equal Education Law Centre (“EELC”) have campaigned for over a year to ensure the adoption, publication and implementation of a national scholar transport policy.

 

At the end of October last year, the National Learner Transport Policy (“the Policy) was finally made public, after a significant battle to secure its release.

 

EE and EELC welcomed the eventual publication of the Policy, despite the long and unexplained delays. The publication of the Policy is a step forward toward the fulfillment of the right of access to basic education, but it is not far enough.

 

The Policy laudably includes progressive areas of focus, such as a commitment to providing dedicated attention to universal design for learners with disabilities, and recognising the need to ensure effective safety and security measures for learners.

 

However, despite the broadly positive aspirations of the Policy, the current version of the Policy has significant gaps and requires further detail and development in order to effectively realise its stated objectives.

 

On 22 January 2016, EE and EELC submitted a comprehensive analysis of the Policy to the Department of Transport and the Department of Basic Education, highlighting the following key areas of concern:

 

·         The Policy’s criteria for identifying beneficiaries of subsidised scholar transport is inadequate.

·         The Policy does not provide sufficient clarity or coherent mechanisms for multi-stakeholder coordination.

·         The Policy does not provide sufficient guidance on how planning for learner transport provision will take place.

·         The Policy does not provide adequate monitoring mechanisms to ensure implementation of the Policy.

·         The Policy does not provide timeframes and deadlines for implementation.

·         The Policy does not provide mechanisms to ensure adequate funding and budgeting.

 

The full analysis is attached hereto. EE and EELC have demanded an urgent review of key gaps in the Policy as well as information regarding implementation of the Policy.

 

EE AND EELC DEMANDS INFORMATION ON PROGRESS OF IMPLEMENTATION

 

The lack of publicly accessible information regarding the implementation of the Policy is deeply concerning. The following schedule sets out the commitments made by the Department of Transport to the implementation of the Policy, and the known status of progress of such implementation.

 

Required action Commitment for completion Progress
Formation of a National Interdepartmental Committee October 2015 Unknown
Development of National Advocacy Programme December 2015 Unknown
Establishment of provincial interdepartmental committees October 2015 Unknown
Finalisation of  Norms and Standards and Operational Guidelines for Learner Transport December 2015 Unknown

 

It is not acceptable that information relating to the implementation of the Policy is not made publicly available. EE and EELC have demanded that the Department of Transport and Department of Basic Education provide specific details as to the progress of implementation.

 

INADEQUATE CRITERIA FOR QUALIFYING BENEFICIARIES OF SUBSIDISED SCHOLAR TRANSPORT

 

Fundamentally, and most significantly, the Policy’s criteria for beneficiaries of subsidised scholar transport is flawed and requires urgent revision

 

One of the major issues impacting on the provision of learner transport has been the significant inconsistencies across provinces in the qualification criteria for subsidised scholar transport. Regrettably, the Policy in its current form is entirely inadequate in this regard. The Policy makes vague references to “needy” learners who “walk long distances”, without specifying threshold considerations for defining “needy” or “long distances”. In the absence of these details, the Policy is fundamentally flawed.

 

EE and EELC have demanded information on whether the Learner Transport Norms and Standards will provide further critieria and specific detail for determining the beneficiaries of subsidised scholar transport, and on the steps that the DoT and DBE will take to ensure the review of the criteria in the current Policy.

 

CONCLUSION

 

The current version of the Policy is well-intentioned, but requires revision in order to be an effective tool that will materially assist poor learners to access education. EE and EELC will be campaigning to ensure that the flaws in the Policy are addressed and to ensure that the DoT and DBE work towards effective provisioning of scholar transport across the country.

 

For comment please contact:

 

Ntuthuzo Ndzomo (EE Deputy General Secretary): 072 9314343

Luyolo Mazwenbe (Head of EE National Organising): 073 4757921

Solminic Joseph (EELC Attorney): 021 4611421