13-year-old boy walks and hitchhikes for an hour to get to school every day

Farm school has no scholar transport for about 80 keen learners

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Photo of a road

Eastern Cape learners are struggling to travel over 13km to get to primary school in Kariega because the scholar transport contract for the school lapsed. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

On the day schools opened, a 13-year-old grade six boy and his 12-year-old sister had to walk and hitchhike over 13km and back again to go to primary school.

The children, from NU29, Motherwell, Gqeberha, are among about 50 learners in the informal settlement left in the lurch because the scholar transport contract for Amanzi Primary School in Kariega lapsed.

Last year, they were ferried by three minibus taxis. This year there is no sign of any transport for them. Their parents are struggling to find them places.

A teacher told GroundUp that since last week the boy has been leaving home at 6:15am and arriving at school around 7:15am. “He doesn’t want to attend other schools and prefers Amanzi Primary,” the teacher said.

The boy’s sister (in grade five) no longer hitchhikes with him because she is one of the school’s top athletes and is staying at the principal’s residence in Kariega.

Last year, the education department told Amanzi Primary it was facing closure under a rationalisation programme. A primary school must have 135 learners to be considered viable. It currently has 82 learners.

Yet besides the 50 learners in NU29, there are another 36 learners in Area 11 informal settlement in KwaNobuhle who also wish to attend Amanzi Primary. They live in bungalows created during the Covid pandemic for households with elderly people or people with disability.

The learners were “recruited” by the Quality of Learning and Teaching Campaign, comprising teachers and school governing board (SGB) members.

Amanzi Primary SGB chairperson Patricia Dyeli said that Enkululekweni Primary in NU29 is full, as is Noninzi Luzipho Primary in Area 9.

“A total of 87 learners from two different informal settlements have not been able to set foot at school last week, except the boy who is hitchhiking,” she said.

Area 11 is 27km from Amanzi Primary.

Zusakhe Tom, secretary of the Uitenhage and District Taxi Association, said they had a scholar transport contract for two taxis but only in the Amanzi farm area not to NU29.

Eastern Cape transport department spokesperson Unathi Binqose said the previous year’s contracts had lapsed. He said, “The onus is on the parent to fund transport if they prefer a school of choice. There are also risks involved for a 13-year-old to travel long distances to and from school alone and we don’t encourage that.”

Amanzi Primary School in Kariega, Eastern Cape, was facing closure due to small enrollment, yet over 80 learners who wish to attend the school cannot get to it because they have no scholar transport. Archive photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

TOPICS:  Education Transport

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