The “long walk to school’ is soon to be over for 4 000 KwaZulu-Natal children.
This after Judge Trevor Gorven yesterday ordered the Department of Basic Education to provide them with scholar transport.
As part of its ‘long walk to school’ campaign, rights organisation Equal Education took the plight of these children - who walk several kilometres to and from school every day - all the way to the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
They were scheduled to argue their case against the provincial departments of basic education and transport, before Judge Gorven, yesterday. But at the eleventh hour, the parties made an about turn.
In terms of an order taken by consent, Basic Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwana undertook to take all reasonable steps to provide the children in question with scholar transport by April 1, 2018.
He also undertook to furnish the court with a report on scholar transport in KZN by that date.
Equal Education would then be given 30 days to interrogate and respond to that report.
The parties argued the matter of costs, with Judge Gorven ultimately ruling the department should be made to pay as Equal Education had enjoyed “substantial success” - whether by consent or not - after being forced to go to court.
Judge Gorven said he hoped this case would “take the matter forward, so that the needs of children and learners were met”.
“The constitution places children’s rights as paramount in all matters,” he said.
Equal Education’s Ntuthuzo Ndzomo said outside court that the order meant the department was forced to provide scholar transport to the 12 schools Equal Education was representing.
“But not only that, we had raised issues with regards to the scholar transport policy in KZN and they have to come up with a plan by April 1, 2018, now,” he said. “The issue is here is we tried to engage with the department since last year … And it seemed there was no plan to ensure proper budget allocation towards scholar transport … Now the department needs to go back to the drawing board and consider scholar transport and its importance.”
Ndzomo said the matter it was “not over yet”.
“Come next year, we need to meet again with the community in Nquthu and schools in KZN with similar concerns around scholar transport. So this is only the beginning. Until April 2018, Equal Education will continue working,” he said.
Departmental spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said his offices noted the outcome of proceedings and would study it.
“We still remain committed to providing subsidised and reliable transportation to deserving learners in our province,” he said.