Eastern Cape scholar transport programme fails a quarter of needy pupils

UNDER FIRE: MEC for Transport Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe

One out of four Eastern Cape pupils who require scholar transport are not being assisted.

The province’s department of transport said it had managed to provide scholar transport to only 83,789 out of the 111,127 identified pupils.

In a response to questions in the legislature in June, transport MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe said the department was still in the process of contracting operators to transport pupils who would be returning to school in phases.

DA MPL Marshall von Buchenroder had questioned the MEC on the readiness of the scholar transport system for when classes resume.

Von Buchenroder lambasted the department for its lack of readiness, saying the MEC should hand over the reins if her department was unable to ensure pupils returning to school had safe transport when lockdown restrictions are eased.

“At the very least, the department should have finalised 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,” Von Buchenroder said.

With schools having closed and set to reopen under a revised academic calendar, the department should have had enough time to provide sufficient operators and additional routes, and ensure pupils were transported safely, in line with the national Covid-19 guidelines, he said.

“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.

“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,” he said.

A budget of R627.7m has been allocated for the scholar transport programme, funds which Von Buchenroder said were “hopelessly insufficient”.

Tikana-Gxothiwe’s spokesperson Unathi Binqose failed to respond to questions sent to her by the time of going to print.


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