Equal Education celebrates the victory of learners, teachers and schools from Nquthu in KwaZulu-Natal who have recently received scholar transport. The provision of buses to three schools and the release of the national policy on scholar transport is the first step towards realization of learner rights to accessing education.
For more than a year, Equal Education members (“equalisers”) have campaigned for access to scholar transport both in KwaZulu-Natal and nationally. In the last month, Equal Education has won significant victories in our fight for KZN learners who are forced walk long distances to school in rural areas in difficult and dangerous terrain.
National Scholar Transport Policy published
On 23 October 2015 after sustained correspondence with the Minister of Education, and under the threat of litigation by EE assisted by the Equal Education Law Centre, the National Scholar Transport Policy was finally published, providing a platform to ensure that learners no longer walk long and dangerous distances to and from schools.
Three schools receive their buses
After months of advocacy, campaigning, and legal interventions, learners at three high schools have now been provided with buses to ensure they are able to access schools.
Members of Equal Education (EE) and our lawyers from the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) have confirmed the provision of buses to the following schools:
· Mangeni High School – 3 buses
· Esikhumbuzweni High School – 2 buses
· Nhlalakahle High School – 2 buses
This is a significant achievement for the learners. However, it is disappointing that the provision of this basic service has only come after a long struggle by learners and parents and under the threat of litigation.
The long walk is not over.
EE has identified 11 schools in the Nquthu area that still do not have access to scholar transport, despite repeated appeals. Learners at these schools have to contend with dangerous terrain, bad weather and violent attacks on the road. In some cases, learners walk more than 20km per day; a serious threat to their rights to access to education, health, safety and dignity. The lack of a transport impairs a learner’s ability to concentrate in class, and makes arriving at school on time impossible. Simply put, not providing transport to those learners who need it creates significant obstacles to simply accessing a basic education.
KZN Scholar Transport Grossly Underfunded
The Kwazulu-Natal province has the highest proportion of learners in the country who walk to school, as well as the highest number of learners who walk to school for than an hour. The National Household Survey published by Statistics South Africa, in 2013, states that in Kwazulu-Natal alone, there are more than 2 million (primary and secondary school) learners who walk all the way to school. Of these learners, more than 210 000 walk for more than an hour (in one direction), while a further 659 000 learners walk for between 30min – 1 hour.
It is shocking that compared to these figures, only 22 045 learners in KZN are being provided with transport services (as confirmed in Parliament by the Minister of Transport in November 2014). Despite KZN having the greatest demand for learner transport, it currently spends less than all other provinces on scholar transport with the exception of only the Free State, Limpopo and Northern Cape provinces (although the Northern Cape still provides transport to more learners than Kwazulu-Natal). In the 2013/2014 financial year, the Kwazulu-Natal government budgeted an insufficient R 125 million for scholar transport, compared to R 336 million budgeted by the Eastern Cape government, which has the second highest number of learners walking to school.
Whilst the first two aspects of our campaign have been mostly met, EE and EELC will be consolidating our efforts to ensure the full provisioning of scholar transport, an essential component to learners’ realisation of the constitutional rights to equality, security of person, dignity and basic education. This will require a thorough analysis of the newly-published National Scholar Transport Policy as well a full implementation plan for KZN; in particular the provision of scholar transport to the remaining eleven schools supported by EE and EELC.
Equal Education and the Equal Education Law Centre therefore demand:
1. The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Basic Education to provide a detailed plan for the eleven identified Nquthu schools that are yet to receive transport. We would also like to request that the Department meet with parents and teachers in the area of Nquthu and explain to them the long term plan for provision of these buses.
2. The provision of scholar transport to the 11 schools in Nquthu, who are in urgent need of this service.
3. The proper implementation of the KZN Scholar Transport Policy and a much greater budget to be allocated towards this programme in the province.
4. A conditional grant from Treasury which will allow for the comprehensive provision of scholar transport across the country
For more information contact:
1. Luyolo Mazwembe (National Organiser) at 0734757921
2. Tshepo Motsepe (General Secretary) at 021 387 0022 / 0718865637
3. Yoliswa Dwane (Chairperson) at 021 387 0022 / 0767062338
4. Sherylle Dass (Senior Attorney, EELC) at 021-4611421