Thandile Gujulwa’s dream is to become a surgeon. He is 18 and lives in Khayelitsha Township, East London. He goes to Uviwe Senior Secondary School in Scenery Park. But to attend school he has to walk over eight kilometres: 4.1km there and 4.1km back.
Thandile leaves home for school at 6:20am. If it is a rainy day, he says it takes him an hour to walk to school. On a clear day it takes 45 minutes. He says in a year he can go through numerous pairs of Trustee shoes.
There are 23 learners in need of transport. Parents of 22 are paying R250 per month for the use of a bakkie.
Thandile cannot afford the R250. His mother, Phelisa Gujulwa, passed away in 2013. He receives a foster care social grant, paid to his 26-year-old sibling, Fikile. His older brother, Azola, also lives with them. Both siblings are without work.
The family has pinned their hopes on Thandile’s success. “Every day, I make sure that I wake him in the morning,” says Fikile.
There are nights when they go to bed hungry. Parents and teachers at Uviwe give the family sour milk (maas). There have been times when on his way home Thandile has been waylaid and robbed of the sour milk and whatever else he had on him.
“But I have a huge dream of becoming a surgeon,” he says. “That is why I keep going to school no matter how tough things are for me.”
School Governing Body member Mfana Citwa says they have been trying for many years to get school transport for kids like Thandile. “The Departments of Education and Transport told us that there is still a crisis of corruption in scholar transport. So they are still busy trying to sort out the problem.”
“The problem of our government is that they want something to happen in order to act. So if one kid can be killed while walking in those bushes, then our government can act,” he said.
Acting school principal Vuyani Mgqolozane says officials from the transport and education departments came to do a survey of a route for the school. “They said, yes, there is a need for scholar transport at Uviwe. But I do not know why there is no school transport till today.”
Spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Department of Transport Khuselwa Rantjie said, “The Department has been made aware of the challenge facing the learners at Uviwe and we are currently engaging with the Department of Education to resolve the matter.”
The Eastern Cape Department of Education spokesperson had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
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