Scholar Transport: Eastern Cape Violated Constitutional Rights of Learners

Edmund van Vuuren, MPL

Shadow MEC for Education

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has found that the Eastern Cape Departments of Education and Transport have violated the constitutional right to basic education by failing to provide learners with transport to and from school.

The report was compiled following the DA’s complaint last year. We visited the Zweledinga Senior Secondary School in Queenstown and walked over 12 km with learners, who do not have access to scholar transport. Some children in the Eastern Cape have to walk in excess of 25 km a day just to access education. This is often done in harsh conditions, placing our children in danger, and exhausting them before they even an opportunity to learn.

The DA will now request that this report be tabled in the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature in order to ensure the recommendations made by the SAHRC are enforced immediately.  My colleague, the DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education, Annette Lovemore MP, will also have the report brought before the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, so that the national policy can be improved.

The SAHRC found, following visits to several schools in the Eastern Cape, including Lovemore Park farm Primary School in Port Elizabeth, and Ntabankulu, Dalibaso, Luthubeli and Upper Mpako secondary schools in Mqanduli:

  • That the failure by the Department of Education and the Department of Transport to provide transport to and from school violated learners’ right to education as enshrined in Section 29 of the Constitution; and
  • That the Departments’ failure to provide subsidised transport amounts to an infringement of its duty to consider the best interest of the learner as per section 28 of the Constitution.

The Commission further recommended that:

  • Departments should review their memorandum of agreement regarding the provision of scholar transport to ensure that it’s consistent and does not prevent learners from going to school, thus violating their right to education;
  • Departments must provide the commission with monthly written reports on the progress made towards the delivery of transport to the learners of the schools as listed in the report. This must include:
  1. Number of learners requiring transportation per school as at date of the first report and the extent to which figure fluctuates throughout the reporting period;
  2. Number of learners that have been provided with transport since the last report and the extent to which this figure fluctuates throughout the reporting period;
  3. Time bound plans, including immediate and temporary plans, to address the affected transportation challenges of the affected learners; and
  4. The principals of the six schools are directed to take proactive steps in establishing from learners who are registered at their respective schools whether the basis of their nonattendance is due to the lack of transportation and provide the Commission with reports on a consecutive 30th day of the month of each school term.

In the DA-led Western Cape, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) makes provision for transporting learners who live 5 km or more from their nearest appropriate ordinary public school. This is in accordance with the National Policy. Learners who have no access to public transport in rural and outlying areas are prioritised.

We now trust that the Eastern Cape Education Department will treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves.

The DA will closely monitor the enforcement of these recommendations and will continue to do everything possible to ensure that every child has access to basic education – so that they can pursue a life they value and develop to their full potential.