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Durban - New regulations outlined in a proposed school transport policy will mean that any transport operator wanting to carry pupils would have to apply for a special licence.
The National Scholar Transport Policy, which is in its final draft stage, is aimed at regulating the transport of pupils and ensuring that vehicles contracted to schools are roadworthy.
Transport minister Dipuo Peters said her department and basic education would finalise the Scholar Transport Policy that would be forwarded to the cabinet for approval before it was taken to Parliament. The policy document had been two years in the making.
“This policy seeks to address safety, accessibility by learners and law-enforcement,” she said at the Global Road Safety Partnership Africa Summit held last week.
The act would require the two departments to establish a national interdepartmental committee with officials from the provincial Education and Transport departments. Progress reports would be submitted to the ministers and MECs.
Key elements of the policy include:
The establishment of safety norms, standards and regulations instituted by the national department of transport.
All pupil transport vehicles to be easily identifiable with unique branding.
All operators must have the correct vehicle licences, be licensed and registered with the provincial regulatory entity.
All vehicles transporting pupils must be roadworthy.
The department of transport would establish a driver code of conduct, which would include preventative measures for emergencies. First aid and advanced driver training would also be provided.
Parents and school principals have welcomed the proposed legislation.
School minibus and bus accidents are frequent.
In May, KwaZulu-Natal transport MEC Willies Mchunu said bakkies transporting children to and from schools were “ticking time bombs” that should be outlawed.
This was after five children had been killed and 24 injured when the bakkie they were travelling in veered off a gravel road and plunged into a sludge pit on a farm near Mooi River.
On Monday Cape Town principal Shahien Gaidien, of Dennegeur Avenue Primary, who lost three pupils in a bus crash nine years ago, said he hoped the proposed measures would iron out the “grey areas”.
The bus his school’s children were travelling in had been poorly maintained, which resulted in uneven wear on the brake linings.
Valerie Philipps lost her son, Jody, in the Blackheath railway crash, also in Cape Town, in August 2010.
Ten children were killed in the accident.
A taxi had been taking 58 Rheenendal Primary School pupils to school when it collided with a train.
The driver, Jacob Humphreys, was sentenced to 20 years on 10 counts of murder and four of attempted murder after the incident.
“I hope this will bring about change,” Philipps said.
Provincial education departments would be responsible for contracting transport operators while transport departments would be tasked with registering and licensing vehicles and designated routes.
Oversight committees, consisting of provincial transport and education department officials, parents and interested parties would also be established.
Pupils who would benefit from the government-provided transport would be selected by education departments and schools.
The payment of service providers would be based on kilometres travelled and would be uniform throughout the country.
The transport cost would be carried by the government.