Paarl pupil’s death puts focus on lack of scholar transport in rural areas
Cape Town - Western Cape Child commissioner Christina Nomdo said scholar transport should be part of the right to education.
Nomdo was commenting after the discovery of a 17-year-old girl's body near a farm in Groot Drakenstein in Paarl, while on her way to school.
Police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said a death inquest case has been opened for investigation and a post-mortem would be conducted to determine the cause of death.
“I heard today of children who walk 5km to the scholar transport pick up point where the bus collects them at 6am. During Covid-19, when children only attend school on certain days, it may mean that a young girl is walking alone from a farm from 4am, if her parents are also working.
“The scholar transport is the means to access education. So it is about bringing learners in remote areas to where the schools are. The farm children need to make many sacrifices and suffer hardships to access education,” she said.
Chalmane Kruger, the chief executive of NGO Speak Up, said this highlighted the vulnerability of school children in rural areas and farming communities. She said councillors of these farm communities should form policing forums working in close collaboration with the police to ensure the kids’ safety.
“We feel the president and ministry of Social Justice; Security and Welfare should seriously come to the table and meet with community leaders and GBV support groups to come up with a solution to end these horror crimes on the increase in SA. Call centres and a GBV Fund is not an overall solution. The prevention of these crimes needs to be addressed,” she said.
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the department transported over 61 000 learners on 567 learner transport routes across the province.
She said the policy provided for the transportation of learners living more than 5km from their nearest school.
Hammond said the budget for the Learner Transport Scheme was R414 million in the 2020/21 budget.
“We are deeply aware of the challenges that learners face in getting to school. Unfortunately, it is impossible for the department to reduce the 5 km threshold due to financial limitations.
“The number of learners living within a radius of 4km for example, would increase the costs of this scheme dramatically, a cost that we would simply not be able to carry. It would mean a further reduction in teaching posts, as well as, fewer classrooms built. Something that we cannot consider currently as these areas are already under pressure,” she said.