Over 193 000 students, or 21.5% of those eligible, do not receive the transportation they need.
The Basic Education department has admitted that many of those most in need of transport to school are being left behind.
Responding to parliamentary questions recently, Minister Angie Motshekga revealed around 900 946 learners in 5 635 schools need learner transport. Of these, only 707 069 learners in 4 196 schools were transported at the end of the second quarter of 2023/24 financial year.
This means that over 193 000 students, or 21.5% of those eligible, did not receive the transportation they needed.
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What is to blame?
Motshekga said learner transport programmes were funded through budget allocations to each province, with provinces responsible for the provisioning and prioritisation of scholar transport programmes.
She said financial constraints in provinces had limited how many children it could help.
The department urged provincial governments to build more schools to reduce the need for scholar transport.
“The learner transport programme at inception was an interim solution to provide access to education where there is a shortage of schools.
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“Provinces have been requested to collaborate with infrastructure units to build schools where there is a higher demand for learner transport programme and relief pressure on the transportation of learners,” it added.
It takes a village to transport a child
Community members in some parts of the country have stepped in to help where government has not, with The North Coast Courier recently reporting on a scholar transport program to ensure more than 2 000 children in Tongaat, KZN, get to school.
The Sqalokuhle Scholar Association has been in place since 2020, in partnership with Tongaat’s Sqalokuhle Taxi Association, the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) and the KZN transport department, but was formally regulated recently.
“There are now formal rules in place about carrying capacity, tariffs and the branding and compliance of vehicles,” explained vice-chairman, Rajen Nundhlal.
It consists of 110 drivers, 48 taxis, and 25 cars with seven seats or more.