4 February 2020
On Tuesday outraged parents in Nkandla, near Joe Slovo, Port Elizabeth, stopped their children boarding their school bus for the second day this week.
Transport is needed for 110 learners from grade R to 7 who attend Spencer Mabija Combined School in KwaMagxaki.
Ntando Tours & Transport provides the buses.
“Today [Tuesday], we decided to inspect this bus because yesterday’s one had broken chairs,” said parent Phumla Sibaca, who has three children at the school. “But this one was even worse. It has a huge hole that our children can fall into. The children push one another in that bus when they board and it is overcrowded. We decided not to allow our children near that moving coffin.”
Another parent, Nowhi Nyendwana, also a mother of three, said, ”Anything can happen in that bus because it is overloaded and too hot. Most of these children are five-years-old and they can easily collapse. They solely depend on this bus. It takes 110 children here in Nkandla, ten in Nyamazana and seven in Joe Slovo areas. In total it carries 127 learners every day.”
The bus is certified to transport 65 people seated and 15 standing. But parents say that since 2014 it has carried over 100 learners at a time.
On Tuesday, parents yelled at the bus driver: “Go to hell with this skorokoro bus.”
“We have been calling for a second bus or our own school to be built, because Joe Slovo Primary School is already full and overcrowded,” said Nyendwana. “Last year, we even went to the district offices in Uitenhage where we were asked to gather a number of our children from the schools they attend. But some of the schools refused to give us that information for fear that their school numbers will drop if we have our own school.”
Sibaca said that on Monday the driver said he could only take 65 children. “We demanded the driver to show us a list of the children who were approved to be on the bus. But he failed to do that … Since the scholar transport was introduced here in 2014, we never used a list. We just bring our children here at this collection point to board this bus.”
“Then we asked him, ‘Whose child must not attended the school because of government’s failure to provide enough scholar transport for our children?’
“We then decided to go to our ward councillor’s house and asked him to intervene because we are illiterate. We don’t know how the government’s departments operate. But he is our leader and must do something about our children’s situation,” Sibaca said.
Parents and learners then went to ward councillor Simphiwe Tyukana’s house and prevented him from leaving his house. They sang a touching struggle song about a crying child – Sihoye isikhalo somntana (The baby’s cries to attention). Protesting learners covered their faces with their arms imitating crying babies.
Tyukana said, “I don’t feel bad about the parents and learners for what they have done at my house.”
He said the problem could have been prevented.
“Relocation [of households from various wetlands] to Nkandla started in 2014. But since 2009, I have been asking the Eastern Cape Department of Education, late MEC Mandla Makupula, to build a new primary school because we have not lost less than ten learners crossing R75 Uitenhage Road,” he said.
“In our meetings we had with him between 2009 and 2010 he promised that he will build a primary school for us because we are a receiving ward … Now we have a school crisis problem.”
“We cannot allow our children to walk almost ten kilometres [5km each way] daily to school … They are at risk of being robbed, raped and killed as they walk these long distances,” said Tyukana.
Provincial education spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said: “The Department is currently saddled with 152 ongoing major infrastructure projects that include 51 replacement schools. These projects are projected to be finished in 2022 and will cost R4.5 billion. Any new projects will only be considered in 2023/24.”
Provincial transport spokesperson Unathi Binqose said: “We will follow up on those reports that a bus was turned away. We do have testing stations where our scholar transport vehicles are tested for roadworthiness by qualified personnel.”
“In 2019 the department was ferrying a total of 437 learners, then the contract was renewed and we are currently ferrying 434 learners. We are looking at the issue of the growing demand for scholar transport in schools across the province. Adjustments will be made where possible.”
“But we wish to assure all scholar transport users and those that are in need of the service that we are doing all we can to reach out to everyone, amid the tight budgets and other challenges we are faced with,” he said.
Angry parents left their children at home and went to school to address the matter with the principal.