The Democratic Alliance (DA) has established that KwaZulu-Natal’s (KZN) Department of Education (DoE) is causing the Department of Transport (DoT) to illegally transport almost 10 000 scholars to and from school as part of its Learner Transport Programme (LTP).
The shock finding was made by the DA after written parliamentary questions were submitted to KZN’s Education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu (view here) To further confirm the exact numbers and plans to overcome this, the DA also submitted written parliamentary questions to the MEC for Transport. (view here)
According to both MECs’ responses, they are aware of 9 673 learners who constitute as overloads. Equally damning is MEC Mshengu’s admission that he is aware that this is unlawful in terms of public transport.
In KZN the estimated need is to transport 179 318 learners. This is a figure the DA believes is grossly understated because we know that an indeterminate number of learners use unsafe and informal transport over, which both Departments have no control.
Meanwhile, the DoT has not put any regulations in place to manage the safety of learners in particular. The “Malumes” as they are known have repeatedly been proven to put learners’ lives at risk with many lives lost through their own alleged negligence.
MEC Mshengu has claimed that the overloading problem stems from the fact that the programme only received a slight increase in its 2021/22 budget and that this funding was used to reduce the overloads. This begs the question – how many more children were being squashed into vehicles before?
He also states that the matter has been brought before KZN’s Education portfolio committee and presented to the provincial and National Treasuries. Regrettably, Treasury has not been able to assist “due to the current financial situation facing the whole country”.
The reality is that this problem is decades old and that this ANC-run government has failed to honour its commitment to parents and learners for safe and reliable learner transport for years and years.
The lack of progress is also the result of this programme being bounced around like a political hot potato between KZN’s Education and Transport Departments. Given this lack of consistency, it is no wonder that there is so little progress.
What this latest development means is that a further inestimable number of learners will have no option but to continue walking long distances, in all weather and under unsafe circumstances – simply to receive the education that is their constitutional right. This is a severe indictment against KZN’s entire ANC leadership, who claim to care yet fail to deliver.
In stark contrast, the DA-led Western Cape provides transport to all learners that require it, thereby making sure we do not put their lives at risk. The difference – yet again – is that the DA gets things done.
The DA expects that MEC Mshengu in a time-bound manner of no more than 60 days table a funded solution. This must include details on how and by when the funding gap will be resolved. This must include a report on the true number of KZN learners needing transport and an accurate report on how many learners walk to and from school every day.
In addition, we expect a date by when he will hold discussions with KZN’s Transport MEC and her Department to ensure that the informal learner transport sector is made safer through regulations.
KZN’s DoE cannot continue to openly and illegally transport learners. The DA expects answers as to when the engagement will take place with National treasury and we need to be informed of the outcome of this. Learner’s lives, wellbeing and quality of education depend on this.
The DA is committed to continuing oversight of this critical and urgent area of the responsibility of the DoE and it’s implementing agent, the DoT. This will include repeatedly raising the matter at portfolio committee level and parliamentary questions in KZN and in the national assembly.
Our children’s futures must be safeguarded if we are to ensure the development of a capable state. KZN is showing a severe lapse in achieving this, as the ANC government goes nowhere fast.