Wolwerivier school bus cancelled for 2016
Wolwerivier children may have to change schools after the bus service to their school at Vissershok was suspended, writes Daneel Knoetze, a researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi, an organisation that recently published a report on conditions at Wolwerivier to which Knoetze contributed.
The Department of Education has suspended the bus service from Wolwerivier relocation camp to Vissershok Primary for 2016. Some parents say that a move to one of the closer farm schools would ruin their children’s educational prospects. But, according to the department, the decision aligns with their policy. Parents wanting to keep their children in Vissershok Primary would have to make alternative arrangements, the department’s spokesman has said.
Initially, when the City of Cape Town moved Felicity Dick and her family from Skandaalkamp to Wolwerivier in July, the school bus service for her son Franquin Pietersen did not follow to Wolwerivier. Franquin is eight and in Grade 3 at Vissershok Primary. He is diligent and the family is hopeful that one day he will be able to write and pass his matric exams, Dick says.
Dick and her partner are unemployed, but the family raised the R150 a week needed to transport Franquin between Wolwerivier and Vissershok Primary while they waited for the department to redirect the bus service that they were previously dependent on.
“For us it was very important to get him to school every day, because we did not want for him to fall behind,” says Dick.
“It was very tough and stressful putting him on private transport from a strange place. It was also very expensive. We could never do that for long. So, we were pleased when the bus situation got sorted out and we could just put him on the school bus again.”
Yet, last week Vissershok Primary principal GB Andries sent out a letter to parents informing them that the bus service which provided this reprieve to Dick and at least a dozen other families has been cancelled for 2016.
“Parents must now make alternative arrangements,” wrote Andries, adding an apology and that the decision came from the Western Cape Department of Education. He suggested that children should either enrol at the farm school, Vaatjie Primary, which is closer to Wolwerivier or that they should make private arrangements for their children.
The letter left Dick panicked and confused, she says, especially as a reason and explanation for the decision was not communicated.
Ayanda Qobongwana, mother to 5-year-old Lisakhaya whom she had hoped to enrol at Vissershok next year, is also frustrated. “Vissershok is now further, but before the City moved us it was close and the best option for us. We believe that the opportunities for our children are much better there,” she said, referring to the maths lessons and after school programmes at Vissershok.
“We do not believe that Vaatjie will be able to provide a quality education for our children. So it stresses us very much.”
The top-up services at Vissershok – maths, science and computer classes as well as after school surfing and swimming lessons – are provided by the Table View based SAVE Foundation which links international volunteers with the school. Sergio Dreyer, the general manager at SAVE, also expressed disappointment, saying that the decision would take children away from one of the few schools and programmes dedicated to curbing the high drop-out rate among children from the Cape’s poor, rural areas to the north of the city.
“We work in Wolwerivier as well, and have noticed the intense new challenges many families now face in getting their kids to the different schools in the area. It is upsetting to know that many children have to walk for more than an hour to get to a bus pickup point,” he said.
Department spokesperson Paddy Attwell said that the decision to scrap the bus service is aligned with a general policy for scholar transport. According to this, the department does offer transport for children from poor communities who live more than five kilometres from their nearest school. Vaatjie is just more than 6 kilometres from Wolwerivier and, even though it was closer to Dick and her community before the relocation, Vissershok is now just more than 13 kilometres away.
“Our district office obtained special permission to provide transport for these learners to Vissershok for the rest of 2015, to avoid disrupting their schooling during the year,” Attwell said, adding however that Vaatjie is now the closest school.
“We therefore encourage parents to enrol their children at Vaatjie Primary, if they have not already done so. Parents may choose to send their children to Vissershok, (but) they will need to arrange transport.”
Transport arrangements have not yet been made for Vaatjie. This, Attwell said, could only be done if parents applied for the transport in line with the policy.
Attempts were made to reach Vaatjie’s principal, but there was no answer at the number listed for the school mid-afternoon on Thursday.
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