Bus jam strands disabled pupils

Parents say they were told by the school’s bus drivers that the vehicles are not running because they were found to be unroadworthy.

Disabled children who attend a special-needs school in Khayelitsha have been left stranded at home because the school’s bus service has not been running, say parents.

Parents say they heard Khayelitsha Special School’s buses were deemed unroadworthy, but the provincial education department, which provides the six buses to the school and pays for their maintenance, fuel and drivers, says the drivers wanted a 50% pay hike.

A parent, Zingiswa Gabela, said many parents had had to take unpaid leave to care for their children.

“This is the most difficult time of our lives. We are forced to stay at home in this financially difficult time.”

She claimed the parents – who pay R200 a month for the bus service – had only heard about the problem when the bus driver had told them the vehicles were unroadworthy.

It had come as a shock, she said, to hear that the buses had expired discs and their brakes were failing.

“The sad part is that there was no communication as to why children were not picked up. We had to hear from the driver by luck. There should be responsibility from all the parties and transparency for that matter.”

Parents have called on the Western Cape Education Department to intervene and resolve the crisis.

A parent who did not want to be named said: “This is frustrating to us and children. We have been in the dark about this.”

Western Cape Education Department spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond, said concerns had been raised about the safety of the buses.

She said the buses had gone for testing, although at the time of going to print it was unclear whether the buses had, in fact, been deemed unroadworthy.

Ms Hammond said an assessment done on the vehicles in June had found that “management of the vehicles needs to be improved. Checklists have been put in place to enhance accountability and fleet management”.

However, she said the main hurdle was that the bus drivers wanted more money.

“The drivers requested a 50% increase last week, and since they are employed by the school governing body, they have asked to be employed by the department.”

Khayelitsha Special School pupils have been unable to get to the school because its bus service is not running.