The Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal recognizes the right to access to education for every child as guaranteed by the constitution of the Republic of South Africa. To this extent, the Department is enjoined, within the available means, to ensure that all children have unhampered access to education. KwaZulu-Natal is largely rural and most of its school-going children reside in rural areas.
Owing to the poor socio-economic conditions and underdevelopment of many rural parts of the province, our learners in those areas still have to travel long and dangerous distances in order to access education. Over the past years, the department has resolved a number of cases where learners had to cross rivers in order to reach schools. In these cases, the department has provided scholar transport for affected learners.
In some cases, the department had to procure ferry boats which became unviable to use whenever the levels of water decrease. For the department to provide effective scholar transport, it would require about R1 Billion which is not available as the department only get R218 Million grant from the National Department of Basic Education.
The shortage of funds renders the department unable to provide scholar transport to all deserving learners across the length and breadth of our province. With the available funding, the department is only able to provide scholar transport to 58 908 learners.
We however continue to engage both National Treasury and Provincial Treasury with an aim of securing more funds to expand the service to more needy learners who are currently not benefitting. Subsequent to photos showing leaners crossing the rivers which have been circulating both in the mainstream and social media, the MEC for Education in KwaZulu-Natal convened an urgent meeting of affected districts and the following are interventions made by the department. In uMzinyathi District there are 53 learners in two schools, which are Mbizimbelwe Primary and Phathizwe High School. The department has made provision for scholar transport to be provided to these learners.
In uMgungundlovu District, there are 93 learners in two schools. The following interventions are applicable: Mphelandaba High School: 35 learners will be accommodated in Matatane high school Khamanzi Primary School: 58 learners will be accommodated in Dalton Primary School. The funding for these interventions will be sourced from the re-prioritization process which means there are initial projects that the department had committed to do which will now no longer be fulfilled. It was the considered view of the MEC that resolving these cases is a top priority in order to avoid any possible fatalities.
A task team has been formed to audit the whole province in relation to any similar cases and will be reporting to the Head of Department on a weekly basis. MEC Mshengu has further impressed upon Circuit and District Managers to ensure that they report on such and similar cases timeously. The Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal will continue to collaborate with the Department of Transport to find lasting solutions which will include, amongst others, lobbying the Department of Transport of prioritize building bridges that connect our learners with schools.
- ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION IN KWAZU-NATAL