Millions to cart officials around, but no money for school transport

Henry

The Eastern Cape premier, Oscar Mabuyane, recently admitted that at least 40 000 learners in the province have no way to get to school because the school transport program apparently does not have the necessary money.

Marshall von Buchenroder, the DA’s MEC for transport in the province, says the implications extend far beyond the lack of transport. “It deprives these children of their constitutional right to education.”

He says there is a reason why children will wade through flooded rivers to get to school.

“This is because the alternative – growing up without an education and being trapped in a never-ending cycle of poverty – is a bitter pill to swallow.

“Unfortunately, the problem is not limited to the at least 40,000 learners. “Thousands of operators throughout the province have not been paid since November last year, and everything indicates that they will not receive their salaries until April,” says Von Buchenroder.

He says that if operators decide to stop working until payments are finally made, more than a hundred thousand learners will be stranded and unable to get to school.

“The DA is therefore calling on Mabuyane, as well as Mlungisi Mvoko, MEC for finance, to urgently table an adjustment budget to make money available from other departments to adequately finance the school transport programme.

“If one looks at the departmental budgets for the financial year 2023-’24, there should be more than enough money to ensure that every deserving learner gets to school.

“For example, money can be taken from the advertising budgets, where more than R74 million has been allocated, or catering, where a further R77 million has been made available.

“More than R360 million has been set aside for consultants and a staggering R608 million has been budgeted for the transport and accommodation costs of civil servants.

“Can’t these budgets be cut to ensure that our learners get a fair chance at a better future?” asked Von Buchenroder.

He says the DA has been airing their grievances and concerns about school transport for years.

“Last year, when the budget was tabled, we warned the MEC and provincial treasury that the budget was insufficient to provide the necessary transport.

“However, the ANC refused to recognize the reality and left the budget unchanged; the result of this is a destroyed academic future for our children.”