Scholar transport in KwaZulu-Natal has taken a step forward after the Pietermaritzburg High Court instructed the Department of Education to release a draft scholar transport policy for public comment, Equal Education (EE) said on Thursday.
Equal Education spokesperson Jay-Dee Cyster on Thursday said their “relentless campaign for scholar transport since 2014…succeeded”.
“It is as a result of the determination of EE members that the KZN education department has finally applied itself to the development of a policy to address the need for safe, reliable, government-subsidised scholar transport across the province.”
She said the order of the high court stipulated the policy must be published for public comment, which the department had already done.
“The [department] has given the public 30 days to submit comments. However, we will be requesting an extension of the deadline. Given the exceptionally difficult circumstances we are currently facing as a country (national lockdown), it is important that the public is provided sufficient time and opportunity to make their voices heard. We hope the department will respond positively.”
News24 reached out to the education department for comment. They did not immediately respond. Their response will be added once received.
Cyster said a provincial policy was crucial to clarifying the responsibilities of both the departments of education and transport to “enable rigorous planning, including data collection and budgeting, and to ensure implementation”.
“All learners around the country, who walk long and dangerous routes to school, must – as a component of their rights to education, safety, dignity and equality – be provided with government-subsidised scholar transport.”
Cyster said the release of the draft scholar transport policy was a hard-won victory secured over the course of their #LongWalkToSchool campaign.
She said the campaign led to the provision of government-subsidised buses to three schools in Nquthu in 2015, the publication of the National Learner Transport Policy in 2015, the delivery of buses and taxis to 12 Nquthu schools in 2018 and “winning a public commitment from the national Department of Basic Education to work with National Treasury to explore the introduction of a conditional grant to fund scholar transport”.
Lobby for policy
EE have lobbied for a proper policy, saying it will help decide who should qualify for scholar transport, how it should plan and budget properly, who the relevant role players are, and what their roles should be.
In October 2019, represented by the Equal Education Law Centre, EE returned to court to force the education department to publicly release the provincial scholar transport policy. They were able to secure a court order that the department release the draft scholar transport policy by a particular date.