Learner transport in KZN a thorn in Parliament’s school readiness plan

File picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

File picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 31, 2023


The portfolio committee on basic education has raised concerns by the continued lack of sufficient learner transport to support the basic education system in KwaZulu-Natal.

The committee concluded the first day of its week-long oversight visit programme in KwaZulu-Natal within the Zululand Educational District, where it visited various schools in the district.

In a statement issued by the Parliamentary communications on Tuesday, the committee said it was generally satisfied with the school readiness in the province but was concerned by the continued lack of learner transport for qualifying learners.

“While the committee notes the financial challenges faced by the provincial department and the public service in general, the inability to provide transport is a direct and painful exclusion of learners from the schooling opportunity, particularly learners from the poorest of the poor families,” the committee stated.

There are 1148 schools on the waiting list for learner transport in the province at the budgeted cost of R1.8 billion.

The chairperson of the committee, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, said that while the cost implication was huge, the committee was of the view that further consideration should be made to make provision for learners who have to walk more than 3km to reach the school.

Following its first-day visit in the province, the committee said it was worth appreciation that the department had timeously made available learner teacher support material which has enabled teaching and learning to commence in schools visited.

However, despite the ongoing commitment by circuit and district officials to provide adequate support to schools, the committee raised a concern that there was a general problem in the province of availability of staff to support schools, especially when a vacancy arises.

The centrality of strong leadership and management was highlighted by the committee as a critical pillar in a functional school.

The committee encouraged sharing of best practice between schools to enhance management. Also, the committee reiterated the importance of functional and effective school governing bodies as an important pillar in enhancing governance and school functionality.

“The committee was encouraged by the commitment to the learners shown by teachers and senior management teams in various schools,” the committee noted.

It further noted the positive impact of the National School Nutrition Programme which was evidenced in the district. It said that the committee welcomed the confirmation that service providers were delivering the food on time and that learners were fed at schools.

The committee also welcomed the general safety at schools within the Zululand Educational District with information that break-ins are not prevalent in the region.

“Also encouraging is that communities have adopted these schools and play an active role in keeping them safe. Schools are there to provide education to communities and should be protected by those communities,” said Mbinqo-Gigaba.

The committee will today arrive at the King Cetshwayo District Education District to visit four schools to continue its assessment of the readiness for the 2023 academic year.