School transport: Why we are going to court

The Eastern Cape Department of Education is failing to meet its constitutional duty

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Photo of people walking on road
LRC attorney, Mandira Subramony, walks alongside students on their way to Mizamo High School in Mdantsane, Eastern Cape. Thousands of students across the province are eligible for scholar transport but are not receiving it.

School transport in the Eastern Cape has come under the spotlight again. This constitutional imperative has continually been breached by the Department of Education’s failure to provide transport to all qualifying students.

Thousands of students in the Eastern Cape are faced with the difficulty of travelling long distances to schools. students often arrive late at school which affects their academic performance. But walking such long distances also exposes them to being mugged, raped or robbed. In some instances, students are forced to drop out of school.

Students are also exposed to risks from dangerous weather. Recently, a six-year-old student, Angel Sibanda, was reported missing on 25 February and found dead three days later after being swept away during a storm. Angel was trying to cross a low-lying river on her way back from school in the Diepsloot area, Johannesburg.

Due to the ongoing failure of the Eastern Cape Department of Education to provide scholar transport for students in the province, the Khula Community Development Project and the school governing body of Tyityaba Primary School, represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), have launched an application in the Grahamstown High Court to compel the Department to do so.

Papers were filed in court last month with the hope that the matter will be dealt with on an urgent basis. This comes following the Department’s failure to provide transport for 31 qualifying students at the Tyityaba Primary School in the Peddie area.

Parents of the students are in dire financial positions. Most parents rely on the monthly child support grant to meet the needs of their children and are forced to spend the majority of their available income on transport costs.

The court papers state that thousands of students who qualify for scholar transport are not being transported and, as a result, are denied their constitutional right to access basic education.

The Department has also failed to respond to the applications for scholar transport. Khula Community Development Project and the Tyityaba school governing body are therefore also requesting the Department to supply them with a list of applicants for scholar transport and the reasons why their applications were denied.

Khula Community Development Project states in the papers that the, “[f]ailure to communicate a decision to students on their applications for scholar transport and the failure to provide scholar transport to all qualifying students is a serious breach of their fundamental breach to education.”

The situation in the Eastern Cape highlights the importance of the constitutional obligation on the part of public officials to facilitate access to basic education. Access to basic education goes beyond the provision of educational facilities such as classrooms, teachers an stationary; to ensuring that students can easily access these facilities without having to travel long distances.

The LRC and its clients consider this matter to be urgent.

Mabasa is a communications assistant at the Legal Resources Centre in Johannesburg.

Views expressed are not necessarily GroundUp’s.

TOPICS:  Education Government Transport

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