Pupils in Nquthu finally have transport to and from school, a year after advocacy group Equal Education took the KwaZulu-Natal department of education to court.
At the start of the second school term on Tuesday, the department handed over buses and taxis to 12 schools in Nquthu following a high court order in November compelling the department to provide transport to pupils in the province.
The buses were delivered to Ngwane Senior Secondary School, Hlinzeka Primary School, Maceba High School, Mgazi Secondary School, Ukuphumula Secondary School, Ubongumenzi Secondary School, Hlubi High School, Hlalele Primary School, Magogo Primary School, Manzolwandle Primary School, Nkunyanana Primary School and Langazela Secondary School.
In its court application, Equal Education represented 12 schools. However, “the agreement that was made an order of court in November 2017 was not just about the 12 Nquthu schools – it was also about the provision of education to learners in need throughout the province,” Equal Education said in a statement.
“We are now working to ensure that there is proper implementation of the commitments in the court order,” it added.
The advocacy group had campaigned for transport for two years before taking the department to court.
In the 2016-2017 financial year, the department of basic education said 521 711 pupils nationally needed transport but only 419 849 got it. The provinces with the biggest shortfalls were KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
In its answering affidavit to Equal Education’s application, the provincial education department said the country’s bleak financial situation hindered it from providing transport to all pupils who need it. Consequently the department couldn’t make the “constitutionally recognised right of access to education in all its facets a reality on account of this”.
Last year, Mail & Guardian reported on the plight of pupils who walked for about two hours to school in Nquthu. Other pupils, whose parents paid for private transport to school, dodged death after being involved in accidents. And pupils had been raped while walking to school, Equal Education said in its court papers.
The National Learner Transport Policy, released in 2015, states: “The ability of learners to access education is hampered by the long distances they have to travel to get to school, threats to their safety and security and the cost of transport. Learners have difficulty accessing educational institutions due to the inadequacy of learner transport and insufficient schools in areas where they live.”
The policy leaves it up to provincial governments to determine which pupils, based on the distance they travel to school, would be provided with transport.
The KwaZulu-Natal education department’s draft policy on transport says pupils who have to walk more than 3km to school must be provided with transport.
Equal Education said in its statement that although it viewed the delivery of vehicles to the 12 Nquthu schools as a victory, all pupils in the country who walk long and dangerous distances to school should be provided with transport.