The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) conducted a briefing on the status of learner transport in South Africa to the Standing Committee on Appropriations. It was emphasised that learner transport was important to realise the right of access to quality education.
The HSRC outlined its research methodology, but indicated that not only were the statistics difficult to apply to learner transport in terms of geographic location and demographics, but there had been a lack of cooperation from provincial departments in providing the historical data needed to project future requirements. It also regretted not being able to obtain data on school districts, as opposed to just the provinces. The research was focused mainly on the variations in the provinces, the expenditures in each province and the varying modes of transport used by learners.
Looking at the policy challenges, it was clear that the main challenge was the potential overlap of responsibilities between the Department of Transport and the Department of Basic Education. At the provincial level, there were numerous issues with negligence, roadworthiness and permits, and a need for standardisation.
The primary issues raised during discussion covered standardisation, intergovernmental relations, the policy gaps, and how to address the gaps through plans, budgetary allocations and different kinds of policies. Cascading duties and responsibilities down to the provincial departments was also suggested.
The HSRC requested access to district level data, and to be allowed to attend a meeting between the Committee and the Department of Education. The Committee expressed its support for the HSRC, and noted the limitations which had affected its research.
The Chairperson said the Committee had in the past raised its concerns over the provision and funding of learner transport. It viewed scholar transport as a necessary and integral part of the right to basic education, and a key to quality education. Parliament would need to consider all possible policy and funding options to improve access to quality education through the provision of safe, decent, effective, integrative and sustainable learner transport.
HSRC briefing: Learner Transport in South Africa
Professor Crain Soudien, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), introduced his colleagues. They were Dr Peter Jacobs, Research Director; Professor Modimowabarwa Kanyane, Acting Research Director; Mr Nedson Pophiwa, who works in the Democratic and Governance Programme; and Ms Lebohang Makobane, a junior researcher.
Dr Jacobs said that this had been a collective effort. He specifically thanked Professor Kanyane for his guidance and advice, but also extended his gratitude to the other researchers who had contributed.
Access to information
The presentation had been sent late due to the difficult processes of getting access to good quality evidence and information on this important policy matter. Researchers at the HSRC had thought it would be easy to get access to data on learner transport. In the initial period, it had received assistance from the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) in advising them on the appropriate literature. However, when the HRSC wanted to drill down and get into the nuances of learner transport in the different provinces and education districts, it became increasingly difficult. Despite investing enormous effort over a period of three months to get access to good quality district level data, they had failed in that effort.
The HSRC had attempted to communicate with provincial departments through three letters and numerous follow up calls, to supply them with the necessary data where they had not been able to secure that information. Therefore the presentation was a snapshot of the study that they were able to conduct. Nevertheless, the HSRC saw it as insightful for the learner transport challenge being confronted and what needed to be done.
Brief and Scope
Dr Jacos said the HSRC had received the brief during its last presentation to the Standing Committee, which was after the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) budget statement had been presented. The HSRC had been asked to comment on that budgetary statement, during which it had been asked questions on the learner transport, its implementation and the experiences of learners and the extent to which it contributed toward the progressive realisation of the right to education. Prof Soudien had promised the Chairperson that the HSRC would prioritise this responsibility and to the best of their ability investigating and brief the Committee. The briefing was the outcome of that process.
The outcome had two outputs. The one output was this presentation, and it would be followed by a detailed report with far more nuances, results and findings than what could be presented at this meeting. The HRSC would incorporate in the final report all the feedback that they received from the Committee. The HSRC called a “rapid appraisal” a study that would require at least a period of 18 months to three years to conduct thoroughly. This was utilising the education districts at the level of geographic analysis, rather than the provinces, because it was in the education districts where the real provision should be taking place. Nevertheless, from their point of view, the rapid appraisal was indicative of what was happening across the country.
The Council had been guided by a whole set of questions. The first question was to understand the situational analysis on the ground. In other words, they had started out by asking basic questions: “How do learners actually get to school?”. “How far do they have to travel to school?” What was the average distance of travelling to and from school?” The third part of that first category of questions of getting to and from school, was the extent to which the remoteness from the nearest school or public school, or lack of transportation, might actually result in learner absenteeism from school.
The second category of questions asked for details on the extent to which government departments had been contributing progressively towards the realisation of the right to learner transport -- in other words, the policy domain. In this regard they had asked a whole series of questions on the provision of safe, reliable and affordable transport for learners to attend public schools. “How do these departments and spheres of government form the nature of responsibility?”
The final question, or set of questions, related specifically to public finance and the allocation of the necessary resources towards learner transport. The HSRC had been interested in finding out about the trend in public transport, and how much was being allocated from a budgetary perspective? What was being spent at the provincial and district level? Once again, the HSRC had to throw in the caveat that they had been unable to access all the provincial information. Provinces were not co-operating, despite numerous follow-ups. Unfortunately, even with the limited provincial information, they had no access to the district level patterns and variations, which they considered would require another 18 months to three years of sustained and dedicated work.
To get a real background picture of the learner transport problem, the HSRC had conducted a situational analysis through the first category of questions, and to do this they had relied on an objective information source called the “general household survey.” They had wanted to know why learners did not attend public school, and what the HSRC could learn from the general household survey. It had told them two things. Firstly, in extracting information from the survey, they needed to understand that it captured a variety of reasons to explain why learners did not attend school. It was realised that this needed to be handled with care, because it detailed all kinds of schools and institutions. Essentially, that was why they had utilised a second column to zero in on public school learners and the main mode of transport that public school learners use.
The HSRC had focused on public school learners only where there were specific obligations on the state in terms of educational and schooling provisions. The focus was on four modes of how they got to school: walking to school, subsidised or free transport, which was what the learner transport should be activating, or in other words making possible, and public transport, which would be a taxi.
Dr Jacobs commented on an incident at a local Cape Town taxi rank last week, where two learners had been caught in cross-fire, which was a graphic reminder of the extent to which learners have been exposed to the dangers of public transport in South Africa. This was not confined to the Western Cape, but to all other provinces.
In 2016, approximately 100 000 children of school-going age did not attend public schools due to their remoteness from public schools or lack of transportation, although the general household survey data on this issue was very unstable. Non-attendance for these reasons had peaked in 2010 and 2014, reaching almost 150 000. It was noted that there was no upward or downward trend in the numbers of non-attendance because of these two reasons. However, there were huge gaps in the statistical information available, which made it impossible to assess the extent of policy implementation. Nevertheless, the average number who did not attend due to remoteness and lack of school transport was alarming, and access to safe transport could make a big difference to attendance.
On average, more public-school learners did not attend school due to remoteness or distance from school, rather than lack of transport to school, although the HSRC noted that access to safe and reliable scholar transport could make a considerable difference. Remoteness from school covered 60 to 70 percent of the learners who were not attending, whereas the lack of school transport affected about 35 to 40 percent. However, there was not a consistent or linear progression or increase, as it tended to peak and then slow down. Why this happened was very hard to assess from the existing StatsSA data.
The provincial picture suggested that the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng were the provinces where one had 60 percent of the total number of non-attendees as a result of the remoteness or lack of transport, and this had amounted to 65 000 learners in 2016.Discusses second point. In other provinces the numbers were smaller, which complicated the analysis.
Apart from the children who were not at school because of a lack of transport, and who were the priority group for intervention, there was a large group of learners who were exposed to unsafe and unreliable transport and had difficulty in getting to school, which would constitute the second priority group. This was alarming, as serious patterns were emerging and needed to be addressed. The majority of learners walked to school -- they seemed to be in close proximity to the schools, although Stats SA surveys do not have a distance indicator which could allow the HSRC to calculate the average distance to and from school.
A variable which the HSRC had picked up, and which required fairly careful consideration, was the massive spike in people using private or their own transport. Was this behavioural pattern a result of preference, or had it been imposed on people or subtly been encouraged? In a country of high levels of inequality, people using their own cars to get their children to and from school was an anomaly.
From 2009 to 2016, there had been a drop in walking to and from school, from 78 percent to 73 percent, both absolute and relative, from 10 million to 9.5 million. In public transport -- taxis and buses -- there was a very marginal decline, staying around the 8 percent mark. However, in private transport, there was an increase from 500 000 to almost two million learners. This figure showed the contradictions of South Africa, which was high inequality, relying on public transport, but a huge increase in the use of private vehicles.
Dr Jacobs said the subsidised scholar transport statistics reported in the general household survey may be an under- count because of the way it picked up on specific areas, which was typical for surveys. What had been reported was an increase from 180 000 to 320/350 000 learners who had access to the learner transport system. What was now required was a more careful investigation into the details of who was paying, where schools were getting the resources from – did the schools raise the resources themselves or did they get a subsidy from the state and employ a transport provider to provide the transport for the children.
Mr Pophiwa said a learner transport policy had been implemented in 2015. The background to this went back to the Department of Transport in the early 1990s, which had its own broader framework where it included special needs transport. With special needs transport, learner transport became a possibility, with provisions that it would look into. The intergovernmental relations framework of 2005 helped departments such as Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Department of Transport (DOT) to collaborate to implement learner transport in order to get the final services to the learners. The Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations Framework Act would come in and help the two departments down to the district level with regard to the payment of service providers who provided the transport. The Auditor General’s (AG’s) office was instrumental in auditing the DBE’s implementation of learner transport.
The provision of learner transport is the responsibility of the DOT, but at one of the presentations to the Portfolio Committee on basic education, there had been reservations from some Members of Parliament that they needed to realign the policy to make the DBE the custodian, instead of the DOT.
The main objective of the learner transport policy was to provide a uniform approach, which was lacking. One would find that in 2005 Gauteng province had its own learner transport policy, as did the other provinces. What South Africa had in the name of the national learner policy was a coming together of combined policies. It disseminated different roles and responsibilities which, for example, would state exactly what the DOT had to do, as well as its provincial departments. The same went for the DBE, and what they needed to do at the provincial level. However, there were several aspects that were not clear. There was a need for consultation and other technical aspects that needed to be evaluated before a policy came into being.
The biggest concern or reservation revolved around the Department of Education becoming the custodian, with the Department of Transport acting as the service provider in this relationship.
Provincial experiences of learner transport
Ms Makobane said the HSRC had tried to collect information from the media dating back to 2009, and most of the stories she would be talking about had occurred before the national learner transport policy had been implemented.
In Mpumalanga the biggest safety and security incident had occurred when an accident happened when learners were travelling 40 km to school, which involved crossing provincial boundaries to get to the school, and 18 learners had been killed. There were also several reports of long distances having to be walked. The South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) had organised a protest strike in which they spoke of their dissatisfaction with getting tenders for scholar transport. The tenders for scholar transport in the province were being giving to people who were not from the province. Furthermore, the public transport associations in the province were owed millions of rand by government, and during talks, the government had said that they would need six weeks. After the six weeks, nothing had been done. Therefore, a big problem in Mpumalanga in respect of scholar transport was that the government owes money to the public transport associations.
In Limpopo, the safety and security concerns were that learners had to walk long distances and there was a substantial lack of transport. Parents had voiced their dissatisfaction through the Executive Council’s outreach programme over the scholar transport situation. There were also insufficient scholar transport operators, and those who wanted to be operators said that thew government had taken too long to respond to their applications. The government said applications were now completed by the Limpopo provincial regulatory entity, and operator licences in the province lasted for 90 days and always had to be renewed. There had been no applications for additional funding.
In the North West, students were walking eight kilometers to get to school, often through areas where crime was rife. The criteria for choosing operators were scrutinised by the community, and operators complained about late payments. School principals had asked for interventions from the government. The Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport in the province had launched an investigation. They had made it compulsory for vehicles to be tested, with a thorough permit inspection.
There was a lack of literature on the Northern Cape and Free State. A problem was the use of dilapidated cars that were prone to breaking down to transport learners. There had been an intervention from the Department of Education, and investigations launched by the provincial government.
In the Western Cape, there had been the level crossing crash in the Kuils River area, where a minibus taxi had been hit by a train, and many people had died. There were many cases of long-distance walking in the Cape Winelands area. Parents from Gugulethu had confronted scholar transport operators on how unsafe their children’s travel to school was. Some learners were part of lift clubs in Gugulethu so that their parents would be sure that they got to school safely, until the parents found out that the transporters were dropping them off at business intersections in the townships instead of at school, which exposed them to risks. This meant that the learners had to find other transport, which was extremely difficult for very young children. Transport operators responded that everybody needed to eat, and if a child’s school was far away, they could transport them only a certain distance, after which someone else had to continue the process. In the Cape Winelands area, the school had approached the Department to intervene. The Western Cape government had said that they were trying to limit all that was happening, as they scrutinised and screened applications for scholar transport operators, and every scholar operator needed an operating licence to operate.
In the Eastern Cape, there was a great need for scholar transport. There were records of students having to walk long distances to school and cases of negligence by scholar transport operators, even though they were hired by the government. There was a case of an operator driving an unroadworthy car and when approached by the police, he had run away and left the children. There were reports of R13 million being spent on 331 people, R23 million being spent on 127 children, and R4.36 million spent on 38. Some companies claimed amounts of R700 000 for children that did not exist, and took advantage of the system. The government had responded by contracting consortiums and associations. Now they had a database of individuals from which to choose to take up scholar transport contracts. The MEC for transport in the Eastern Cape had also introduced a road safety sticker, where all roadworthy scholar transport vehicles had a sticker on the left side of the windscreen, so the traffic officers would know that the vehicle was roadworthy.
Kwa-Zulu Natal had the highest demand of learners who were in need of scholar transport, but it was not highest spender. Accidents in this area were caused by things like negligence and unroadworthy cars. There was the #LongWalkToSchool case, in which the government had been taken to court to provide scholar transport, as they were exposed to harm such as bad weather and instances of sexual assault, where some learners were raped. The government had not really said anything about the case. However, the court had said that the government should set a date for the provision of scholar transport in this area.
In Gauteng, there was a case where parents had held a school accountable for scholar transport, in which they had told their children not to go to school and had locked the school gates and locked the teachers inside the school, which was their way of protesting. The Gauteng government had held workshops on regulation 250 of the National Road Traffic Act, the aim being to educate scholar transport operators on thei responsibilities. They had held the workshops with associations such as the Siyabuselela Learner Transport Association of Cosmo City, and the Lanseria Learner Transport Association. In respect of spending there was the greatest demand, but the least expenditure.
In the Free State, there was a lack of coverage on issues of scholar transport in that province. She thought this was because of the low number of incidents or low demand, as Free State transported just under 20 000 learners at a cost of R40 million.
Expenditure Challenges with Learner Transport
Dr Jacobs referred to expenditure patterns at two levels. The first level was the national level, where the HSRC was able to extract from figures from the estimates of national expenditure. The second was where there was questionable data from local or provincial departments about the total money spent per year on learner transport, and the number of learners transported to and from school. From this, they had projected the average rate of change with the regard to expenditure and the average rate of change with regard to the numbers of learners transported.
The national picture was that the overall learner transport budget sits within the Department of Transport, and within programme seven, which accounted for about a quarter of the total budget, there was a small amount of money being spent on learner transport. This amount varied over time between roughly R700 million to R800 million. It was small amount when one considered the DOT’s overall public transport was about 11.3 billion.
The provincial figures largely followed the patterns already indicated. The numbers provided by the different provinces for learner transport were not that high, if they were compared to the earlier figures for non-attendance that the HSRC had extracted from the GHS. The needs were substantial yet what was being delivered was very limited, and they were trying to figure out the reasons for this huge discrepancy. In Limpopo, for example, R234 million was spent in 2016 to make transportation available to 34 000 learners, and compared to 2009, it was a massive increase. It was very hard to explain what happened between 2011 and 2015 – instead of a consistent increase, there drops and sudden leaps. These kinds of fluctuations illustrate the kinds of problems the HSRC had with information and how it was being reported.
Mpumalanga presented a similar puzzle. In the policy presentation, the importance of a monitoring and evaluation system being in place had been highlighted, and the lack of data indicated that there was no system in place, Information that they had requested had arrived only several months later, and if there had been a system, this information would have been available instantantly, which was a worry.
There was a similar picture in KwaZulu-Natal -- a big need, yet information was missing. How could a monitoring and evaluation system be in place with missing information? Administrative data specifically had to be changed and improved immediately. The administrative information obtained from the province had been a cause of concern for the research team.
The Western Cape data had been fairly consistent, but a comparative analysis it raised a lot of questions around efficiency and so forth. One would have expected a sustained, systematic increase in the amount of money spent, and the same for the number of learners.
Gauteng was also an area where they could not find enough information up till 2009, but for the subsequent period there had been a substantial increase in the amount of money spent.
Looking at these cold administrative figures, one had to consider how to construct a coherent picture. The HSRC had looked at the available data sources, especially information received from PMG at previous hearings, and realised there were lots of gaps in the tools and methodologies utilised in order to do consistent analyses. The HSRC had started on the basis of allowing every province to spend what they could, and trying to standardise the information by determining how many learners they actually served with that amount of money. One could work out the average amount of money spent per learner throughout the province. However, this approach depended on provinces supplying the HSRC with information, and could not be implemented where provinces did not provide the necessary data.
The nominal per capita expenditure seemed to show an increasing trend in most provinces. Although KZN was fluctuating, Gauteng and the Western Cape seemed to be sustaining an increase. Limpopo had seen a sustained increase in learner transport provision. The other four provinces which had data appeared to be failing learners in the provision of public transport. The question was, why was the rate of expenditure not keeping up with the increase in the number of learners? He called it “transportation inflation.” The national development plan (NDP) had highlighted that the cost of travel and transport was extraordinary in South Africa, which was something that one had to consider. Essentially, one needed to consider how a systemic constraint was interfering with the delivery or provision of public transport.
Mr A McLoughlin (DA) asked whether the 2015 policy covered the standardisation of the types of vehicles and vehicle safety standards. During the presentation, roadworthiness had been referred to in certain provinces, but he wondered whether the roadworthiness aspect was standardised in the policy, or whether the provinces went ahead and made their own rules and regulations. Was there a standard policy, and could the provinces be held to account on the basis of this policy? There was an indication from the figures presented that there had been huge amounts of fraud and corruption at certain stages -- had this been addressed? He questioned the licence permit, and asked whether this was a standard rule, and why it had be renewed every 90 days. He commented that there was a big difference in the Free State, where transport cost R2 000 per child per year, whereas in every other province it was between R4 000 and R7 000. He wanted to know why all provinces had dipped around 2011/12 after they had performed well, and why one province continued to do well.
Ms D Senokoanyane (ANC) asked about the status of the rural schools, as she was aware of the challenge in providing transport for learners in these areas. Was the reason learners had to walk long distances in Gauteng and Mpumalanga due to a lack of transport, or proximity? In Gauteng, schools were not too far apart from one another, with a few exceptions in the rural areas, so why did they walk? Some learners used private transport where their transport was paid for by their parents
Ms M Manana (ANC) asked the HSRC what kind of help they needed, taking into account that it struggled to obtain reliable information.
Mr Pophiwa responded to the question on policy regarding the standardisation of vehicles and vehicle safety standards. He said that the policy did not directly stick to a model or type of vehicle, but stated that all vehicles must comply with a universal design, which meant that learner transport had to be accessible to all learners, including disabled learners. Furthermore, in terms of governance and the roadworthiness of vehicles, the policy stipulated that vehicles should be subject to the National Road Traffic Act, in terms of which, vehicles must be marked and identifiable. Sometimes one would see a pickup truck transporting learners, instead of cargo. Drivers had to have a Professional Driving Permit (PDP) for public service.
Professor Kanyane said at issue was the interplay of intergovernmental relations in respect of the provinces. There was a policy implementation gap. The Department of Transport provided transport where a contract was required, which stipulated compliance with legislation and regulations.
Ms Makobane responded to the question regarding the 90-day permit renewal in Limpopo. The operating licences were standardised in the policy. All provinces were required to have operators who had operating licences. The 90-day period was something the Limpopo province used to avoid having a long queue of people applying to be operators.
Regarding the learners who walked in Gauteng, there were cases of learners who walked more than 5km to school, but in most cases these were learners who were walking to their school of choice.
The accident in the Western Cape involving the train and minibus taxi had been described as a once-off incident but the behaviour of scholar transport operators was hazardous, in that they often jumped the level crossings.
Dr Jacobs thanked Professor Kanyane for dealing with the interplay in intergovernmental relations with regards to the discrepancies and gaps, and the translation of the policy into a practical solution on the ground. Standardisation could not explain the fluctuations seen in the provinces, and the HSRC needed more research and data. He stressed that information was needed at the school district level, which was the coalface of learner transport, to get a better understanding of how provinces handles their expenditure. There was not much information on rural schools, which was a special category and needed more investigation. The HSRC was willing to investigate, but it would need more time and resources.
Information from the general household survey and the provinces on the distances involved was not available. A variable effecting this would be new housing developments and densification.
The levels of non-attendance by province, and levels of changes in usage of the modes of transportation were what must be looked at. If the HSRC could gather this information, the per capita information could be properly understood. He pointed out that 100 000 to 150 000 children did not go to school because of a lack of transport, and others were walking long distances. That was more than one-third of what was being supplied by the existing policy. If many learners were resorting to public transport due to structural constraints, then even if the per capita information remained consistent, it was still skewed.
The Chairperson directed questions on corruption to the HSRC.
Mr Jacobs said there were two aspects to this. The one aspect was financial mismanagement, and transport operators demanding inflated amounts of money and the extent to which government officials were co-operating. Secondly, regarding the evidence gathered for court cases, and the progress and action implemented to resolve issues, the HSRC needed more time and research.
Mr A McLoughlin (DA) asked about the permits and whether there was any roadworthiness requirement in the permit process, and whether one needed a certificate to show the vehicle was roadworthy. If the Committee wanted to ask some of the provincial departments to present, who would the HSRC recommend? Who was the worst performing province? Were the departments adhering to the 30-day payment rule, as this might have an effect on the performance of the service providers and the amount the service providers may charge? Lastly, he asked whether the HSRC Hs come across any cohesion between the departments in each province, or did they operate independently. He further suggested that there should be a single rule for all provinces.
Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) referred to the question of affordability. He asked whether this referred to individual learners or households, or did it refer to governments or departments not providing sufficient funding for learner transport. He wanted this cleared up. He noted that the HSRC had made an important point on the districts, as this should matter more as far as scholar transport was concerned. He asked if the HSRC could clarify how the money for scholar transport was being transferred, and who took responsibility for this. There had been specific reference to the Western Cape about spending on those learners who were not close to schools – did this apply just to the Western Cape, or other provinces as well? He remarked that Mpumalanga in 2015 had spent over R440 million on only 60 231 learners. There were no statistics on the total number of learners in the country, which was unfortunate, as they could not compare, but this was a low number of learners. He asked the HSRC to unpack this number. Regarding the policy, he asked whether it specified who would be providing learner transport. He was referring specifically to community members. He raised this question because he knew that a lot of commuter taxis doubled up and complicated the process of picking up and transporting learners.
The Chairperson asked about the policy implementation gap and questioned whether the HSRC had a policy implementation plan which would provide mechanisms to avoid the gap. There was a Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) which catered for the provinces, and asked whether this issue should be cascaded to the provincial and district level. Learner transport was a function shared by two departments -- which department was best suited to implement the policy? Both the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Transport had a role to play. How could one move forward from the budget allocation complications -- where did the HSRC think the budget allocation should go? In respect of the problems with reports and monitoring, what would be the best tool to uncover information, as there seemed to be no control?
Professor Kanyane responded to the policy imperative, and where to locate the competency of each department. While transport impacted on the Department of Education, this Department needed to make sure that the delivery of education was of an acceptable standard which did not affect the pass rate. Contracting matters of transport rested with the DOT, while education rested with the Department of Education, and thus there would be some interplay. Regarding the policy implementation gap, monitoring and evaluation was a national issue and cascading this would require an integrative monitoring instrument which would be able to be cascaded to the different provinces. There seemed to be no system in this regard. The policy implementation plan had to be standardised and there needed to be regular intervention.
Mr Pophiwa responded on the question of designated scholar transporters who doubled up and caused problems. While he could not answer for that, he would point out that there were two different types – those that were not subsidised by the government, and those that were. He observed that the vehicles were seldom new. Often non-subsidised transporters provided transport to police learners and parents, who controlled transport in this regard, such as in Gauteng. Publicly funded vehicles did have to meet some requirements. Regarding monitoring and evaluation, one would just need a monitoring and evaluation system within a directorate. It would be best for the provinces to deal with the DOT, but there would need to be mechanism to allow interplay.
Ms Makobane responded to the question on roadworthiness, saying that the policy stipulated that it was a prerequisite. The vehicles were tested for roadworthiness, whether they were certified to carry a particular load, what the age of the vehicles were, and so forth.
She explained that in the Western Cape slide, a near school was one which was in close proximity to where one lived. In the rural areas, a near school could be 5 km away. There was a policy gap here, when one could find that the learner’s school choice was further than in close proximity to the learner’s household. In Mpumalanga, children had died while crossing a border in order to go to a school that taught in their mother tongue, which was a policy gap.
Mr B Topham (DA) observed that the money should be appropriated to the Department of Education, and that consultation should occur with the Department of Transport.
Mr Gcwabaza asked to what extent parents were involved in the process of scholar transport.
The Chairperson reminded Members that the reason for this information was to prepare for the meeting with the Department of Transport and the Department of Education. She was wanted some kind of validation of certain kinds of information. She also noted the importance of finding out the roles of parents in this regard, and wanted some form of monitoring done. She also enquired into the role of the Department in this regard.
Dr Jacobs responded that the information gathered in the provinces on the role of parents had no uniform outcome. There was anecdotal evidence to suggest that parents were protesting poor organisation in this matter. He asked for more time and research at school governing bodies in relation to this issue. He also cited the example of principals’ requests to provincial and district departments on this matter. There had been no encouraging reports on access to scholar transport -- parents and communities seemed to be concerned, but there was no definite evidence.
He said that affordability was a huge challenge in terms of the general household survey, in that it was observed that parents often relied on private transport in certain cases. The Committee should answer whether the HSRC should be concerned with learner transport which had provisions from the learner transport policy, and the Department of Transport should respond to that. The state was spending a lot of money on scholar transport, but the cost of scholar transport provision seemed to be curtailing it.
His request was that this study needed to be cascaded to the district level. Support was needed at three levels. Firstly, there needed to be an endorsement for study at thedistrict level. Secondly, support was needed from the provincial departments of Education and Transport, and both departments needed to sort out their monitoring and budgetary problems. Thirdly, he requested support from the Committee and funding from some external source, as this was a national matter. Fourthly he wanted input from departments and operators and the voices of parents. He also urged information on learners.
Prof Soudien urged the Committee to help further with their research. He also wanted to be present at the meeting between the Committee and the Department of Basic Education.
The Chairperson spoke on the importance of information. She thanked the HSRC for their presentation and noted their limitations. She highlighted the issues of intergovernmental relations, budgetary and policy issues, and issues of monitoring and evaluating, as well as the problem of district level data. Another issue was the lived experience of learners on the ground. Spending efficiently was a priority over the medium term, and reliable data was needed to ensure the link between planning, budgeting and monitoring. She asked the HSRC to send data, and this would be followed up with certain departments. She said that the HSRC would receive support and resources.
The meeting was adjourned.