School transport in the spotlight

Most children are ferried by untrustworthy bakkies to and from school.

Members of Equal Education (EE), parents and partner organisations are calling on the government to implement a free school transport system for urban and rural schools.

This emerged during a meeting at Isivivana Centre, in Khayelitsha, on Thursday August 3, for a public discussion and the screening of a short film Long Walk To School.

The film traces EE’s national school transport campaign, and the lives of their members who have challenged government’s refusal to provide their schools with subsidised buses.

Since 2014, the organisation said, it had been campaigning for the provision of safe, government-subsidised school transport in the country.

The organisation also looked look into safety measures for school transport and the disadvantages of walking long distances to school, saying the lack of transport caused pupils to arrive at school tired, hungry and late.

It said pupils were exposed to extreme weather and were vulnerable to sexual harassment and sexual assault.

EE national organiser Luyolo Mazwembe said most pupils missed out on learning because they did not have transport – which could impact negatively on their performance at school.

“The impact of not having access to safe, reliable and government-subsidised school transport on these pupils’ right to basic education is severe.

“There is a need for the proper implementation of a school transport policy countrywide and there should be sufficient budget policy allocation to schools.

“We need action to be taken. There should be access to transport in the urban and rural areas alike,” he said.

Academic and freedom fighter, Nomboniso Gasa, slammed the government, saying it was unacceptable that such matters were still being debated more than 20 years into democracy.

That young people are facing such challenges, she said, illustrated that the country was not yet free.

“It fills me with great sadness that after many years we still discuss school transport. It fills me with sadness that our children are still waking up at 4am to get to public transport that will ferry them to school.

“It is sad that we still have to fight the government to provide us with transport,” she said.

Ms Gasa said in a country where women were abused, girls raped and killed, government should be sensitive and know they could not walk long distances to school.

EE member Siphilele Thusini, who featured in the film, said his experience of not having transport was bad and that he had often found it difficult to focus in class or cope with the workload.

“Our performance was bad. It was tough because we came from far.

“But after we got a bus, things dramatically changed. The pass rate was high.

“Education is the weapon that can make us succeed in life,” he said.