Pedal-power to pass over mountains

Learners who have to walk several kilometres to school in the most rural parts of the former Transkei are to benefit from a pilot project to provide bicycles as a means of transport.

The Eastern Cape education department, in conjunction with the provincial Department of Transport, is engaged in a pilot project aimed at supplying R75 000 worth of bicycles to affected pupils in the Alfred Nzo district near Maluti and the Chris Hani district near Lady Frere.

Hundreds of pupils are battling to get to school with some having to walk up to 30 kms each day.

Education department representative Danie Breytenbach says it is one of the department’s policies that no learner should walk more than five kilometres to school.

Of the 24 education districts, learner transport is only accessible to 13 of those districts.

Breytenbach says that in the previous financial year R15-million had been set aside for learner transport in the central, northern and western parts of the province.

This year new routes and avenues were being looked at in attempts to alleviate ongoing transport problems.

Learners who have access to transport are subsidised by up to R50 per month by the education department while their parents pay the balance.

But for those in rural Transkei, who for years have had to toil along kilometres of mountain paths to get to school, such long walks may soon become something of the past.

Eastern Cape transport department chief director James Mtila says the tender to be appointed would have to provide single-speed, steel bicycles with a head-lamp, mudguard, pedal reflectors, steel pump and rear carrier with a strap suitable for carrying a suitcase.

It remains unclear, however, whether the bicycles would remain the property of the schools and who would be responsible for their maintenance. Should the exercise be a success, it will be repeated in other areas.

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