By Suné Payne
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) came under fire from MPs on Tuesday for not providing accurate information on the number of learners needing transport.
Ramasedi Mafoko, head of planning at the DBE, presented a document to the portfolio committee on basic education showing that 541,728 learners countrywide had been identified as needing transport. Of these, 448,930 were provided with transport this year. In KwaZulu-Natal, where according to the document, 90,000 learners needed transport, 47,747 learners had been provided with it.
But Mafoko then cast doubt on the numbers in the document, saying the 90,000 estimate in KZN was incorrect and the province was doing an audit to determine how many learners needed transport to school.
Chairperson of the committee Nomalungelo Gina asked whether in that case the committee should “simply ignore” the numbers in the document and asked whether DBE or the KZN provincial department had “actual numbers on this issue.”
Mafoko said the audit was a “logical step”. He said the DBE would go into schools within the next two weeks in KZN to collect data on how many learners needed transport.
Ian Ollis (DA) asked why it had taken the DBE so long since the committee’s last meeting in May to complete a database of learners who needed transport, especially in KZN. “It is now November and the progress doesn’t look very good”, he said.
MPs slammed the department about a lack of progress with learner transport, referring to the court case being heard at the same time in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. The court case, brought by Equal Education and the Equal Education Law Centre, ended in a settlement, with the KZN departments of education and transport promising to provide learner transport to 12 schools in the Nquthu area.
“Why did we have to reach that level?” Cynthia Majeke (UDM) asked DBE officials at the committee meeting.
Sonia Boshoff (DA) told the DBE: “Once again, we don’t see anything on transport for disabled learners.” Boshoff said she wanted a report on transport for learners with special needs, especially in KZN.
Mafoko could not answer Boshoff’s question, but simply stated, “We do need to get numbers from provinces on the number of disabled learners who require transport.”
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