A total of 114 000 learners in the Eastern Cape need scholar transport but only 67 801 children are benefitting from the programme. This means that 46 199 scholars are left to make their own way to school every day, according to a reply to a legislature question I asked Transport MEC Weziwe Tikana.
This is part of the reason why the Eastern Cape comes bottom of the matric class in the country. The picture of hungry learners walking long distances in the dark and sometimes in the rain and other adverse weather conditions has to stop.
What we have to do is stop the profiteers – that is, people being enriched unjustifiably – so we can transport more pupils. This is not a get rich scheme; it is a get a learner to school scheme.
The reply states that there are 1 628 scholar transport operators in the province, based on available resources. The Department of Transport has no contingency plan in place to increase the number of contractors.
The department’s 2016/17 budget for scholar transport is R462-million, which allows for an average cost of R4 000 per annum per learner (R462 000 000 / 114 000) while the current amount is R6 800 (R462 000 000 / 67 801)
The shock report by the Auditor-General, that taxpayers were paying R91 500 in 2014, to transport 57 176 individual pupils, is an indication that something is very wrong with the system.
Clearly we are not getting value for money.
I have written to MEC Tikana and the chairperson of the legislature’s Portfolio Committee on Transport, Ntombizodwa Xhanti, to request an investigation as to whether the current cost per single pupils is indeed viable and what remedial action can be taken to ensure that more pupils will benefit from scholar transport.
In a free and fair society, our children should be given the best opportunities to access education. This starts with being able to get to school.
Marshall von Buchenroder
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