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New school bus on the cards for Cape Winelands learners

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Education department also reviewing rules on provision of scholar transport for rural areas

Photo of marchers at magistrates court
Last month, learners took part in a march in Worcester demanding school transport. Archive photo: Barbara Maregele
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The long wait for a school bus could soon be over for some learners living on farms in the Cape Winelands district.

On Tuesday, the Western Cape Department of Education told GroundUp that a new bus route was being considered for learners on the Hermon and Oakdene Roads.

Activist group Women on Farms Project welcomed the move, saying the new bus route would benefit dozens of learners living on farms near Worcester and Wellington.

Last month about 100 learners took part in a march to the district director’s office in Worcester. Supported by Women on Farms, learners and parents told the director how dozens of children lived on farms as far as 40 kilometres from the nearest high school.

These learners often hitchhiked to school and back. Parents also said they often did not have money to pay for private transport and were worried when learners were forced to wait hours for the next train back home. Many learners have stopped attending school because of this.

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department, said that in addition to the new route, the department had also sent the “five kilometre rule” to the relevant Directorate for review.

According to current regulations, the department only provides transport in rural areas where learners live more than five kilometres from the nearest school and where there is no public transport or hostel accommodation available. Its Learner Transport Scheme currently provides transport for about 57,000 learners on over 500 routes, mostly in rural areas.

Women on Farms, which has been asking for the new bus route for several years, is hoping it will be implemented in January 2019, said director Colette Solomon.

The Department said the new route is dependent on official approval. We would like a timeframe,” said Solomon.

She also urged the department to take into consideration the distance from farm dwellings to the main gate of the property when reviewing the five kilometre rule.

“Learners often have to walk a few kilometres from their homes to reach the main road. This isn’t taken into account. We note and support the department’s willingness to consider the feasibility of buses or smaller vehicles driving onto farms where possible,” she said.

Shelver added that district director Juan Benjamin had also agreed to “cooperate with municipalities and farmers to erect bus shelters at appropriate intervals”.

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TOPICS:  Education Farming

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