Legal Resources Centre goes to court on behalf of thousands of Eastern Cape children left behind with no scholar transport

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

26 March 2024

Legal Resources Centre goes to court on behalf of thousands of Eastern Cape children left behind with no scholar transport

Since the beginning of the academic year, which started on 17 January 2024, hundreds of learners at three specific schools, and tens of thousands at many more, have qualified for scholar transport but have not received it. Denying qualifying children scholar transport has forced learners to walk long distances to school each day, leave their immediate families behind to temporarily relocate to be closer to school, or pay for expensive private transport which many cannot afford. For some learners, these alternatives are impossible and they either stay at home missing vital teaching time, or drop out altogether.

In an attempt to secure relief for these learners, the Legal Resources Centre has launched urgent proceedings against the provincial and national government on behalf of the Khula Community Development Project, and the School Governing Bodies of three schools – Mneketshe Junior Secondary School, SeaView Senior Secondary School and Toyise Senior Secondary School. The failure to process applications or the decision to stop providing transport to some many qualifying learners has meant untold hardship for learners and their families.

For many learners, the routes they have had to walk are incredibly dangerous, with a learner stating that:

I must cross the Mncwasa and Mpame rivers to get to school. The two rivers do not have any bridges to use to cross. I have to take off my school uniform and get in the water, which is very cold, and it gets worse in winter. During the rainy season or when the rivers have overflowed, I cannot go to school because it is dangerous to cross the rivers.”

Aside from the safety risk learners face walking to school, without scholar transport, they are at risk of not attending school. One parent who was forced to drop out of school because of a lack of scholar transport explains that:

I wish I could have gone to school like them. That is why I always motivate my children to go to school. I fear history may repeat itself.”

The urgent application seeks to compel the ECDoE and ECDoT to provide scholar transport to those eligible and qualifying learners who are not currently being provided with scholar transport. This application requires the ECDoE and ECDoT to process outstanding scholar transport applications, develop and implement a catch-up plan for learners who have missed school on account of not receiving scholar transport, and devise a plan to ensure that a similar failure does not occur at the start of the 2025 academic year.

The courts have previously held that the right to education is rendered meaningless for learners who are denied scholar transport in circumstances where they require it. Consequently, the courts have recognised that the state has the obligation to provide learners with scholar transport where their access to schools would otherwise be hindered by their distance from their school and their family’s inability to pay for transport.

This application comes after numerous attempts by the Legal Resources Centre and the schools involved to engage with the ECDoE and the ECDoT, most of which have been unsuccessful. A successful court order would be an important first step to getting learners in the province on the road and providing them with safe and reliable transport to school.  The ECDoE, ECDoT, and the Eastern Cape Provincial Government have filed a notice of intention to oppose, and the matter will be heard on 2 May 2024.

 

Contact details:

Legal Resources Centre:

Puleng Moisa – puleng@lrc.org.za

Mr Petrus Majola – 083 371 1667 Majola@khulacdp.co.za