At 10am tomorrow, 300 members of Equal Education will gather at New Hanover, to begin their long walk to Pietermaritzburg to demand the proper implementation of the national Scholar Transport Policy. The walk, in which learners, parents and teachers will be participating, will take place over two days (four hours each day). There will be designated resting places along the route where invited guests, including Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, will address Equalisers and pledge their support. The final stop is the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education (on 31 March).
In November 2014 and in January 2015, Equal Education and the Equal Education Law Centre visited Nquthu in KZN (read press statement), and discovered that learners were walking between 3km and 12km to get to school (and the same number of kilometres home). Children as young as seven were leaving home before 6:30am to arrive at school before the first lesson of the day began. Along the way to school these learners faced all sorts of dangers, including being raped or robbed, and having to cross swollen rivers.
Scholar transport facts:
The Kwazulu-Natal (KZN) province has the highest proportion of learners in the country who walk to school, as well as the highest number of learners who walk to school for more than an hour. In KZN alone, there are more than two million (primary and secondary school) learners who walk all the way to school. Of these learners, more than 210 000 walk for more than an hour (in one direction), while a further 659 000 learners walk for between 30min to one hour.
Against these figures, only 22 045 learners in KZN are being provided with transport services (as confirmed in Parliament by the Minister of Transport in November 2014). Despite KZN having the greatest demand for learner transport, it currently spends less than all other provinces on scholar transport with the exception of only the Free State, Limpopo and Northern Cape provinces (although the Northern Cape still provides transport to more learners than KZN). In the 2013/2014 financial year, the KZN government budgeted a meagre R125 million for scholar transport, compared to R336 million budgeted by the Eastern Cape government, which has the second highest number of learners walking to school.
Long Walk Logistics:
Learners, parents and teachers will leave their respective homes in Nquthu at 7am to make their way to New Hanover. Once gathered at New Hanover, the walk will start at 10am. Participants will walk along the R33 to Pietermaritzburg, and make pit stops where members of Equal Education’s National Council will address everyone. At the halfway mark in Albert Falls, the long walk participants will stop and rest for the next day.
On the 31st of March, the walk will resume at noon from outside the Brookside Mall in Pietermaritzburg until we reach the KZN Department of Basic Education where will hand over our memorandum of demands to MEC Peggy Nkonyeni. The speakers on this day (at 2pm) will includeCardinal Napier.
The right of everyone to a basic education, as guaranteed by Section 29 of the Constitution, includes to right to access school. The ability of learners to access education is severely limited where they are forced to walk long and dangerous routes to school, and where the state fails to provide reasonable alternatives.
Equal Education will be putting forward the following demands in our memorandum:
1. We demand that there be emergency relief for the 11 schools in Nquthu that qualify for scholar transport.
2. We demand the proper and full implementation of the national Scholar Transport Policy.
3. We call on the provincial Education Department, and provincial and national Treasury to allocate sufficient funding for the provision of scholar transport, and for a conditional grant to fund scholar transport
For further information and comment:
Luyolo Mazwembe (EE National Organiser) – 073 475 7921
Ntuthuzo Ndzomo (EE Deputy General Secretary) – 072 931 4343
Nombulelo Nyathela (EE Spokesperson) – 060 503 4933