Cabinet's Learner Transport policy wholly inadequate - DA

Desiree van der Walt says that one third of learners who require transport are not being provided with it

Cabinet adopts wholly inadequate Learner Transport policy

31 May 2015

This week Cabinet approved a totally inadequate National Learner Transport Policy, bypassing Parliament in the process. 

The DA believes that all children, no matter the circumstances of their birth, should be aided in any way possible to access quality education. This policy does not seek to do that and should be revised.

The policy is supposed to put learners first through guidelines for effective, efficient and safe learner public transport services. 

There are however some crucial omissions from the policy, including:

Clear criteria for who qualifies for assistance or subsidy;

Guidelines for the furthest distance a child should walk before they qualify for transport;

A funding model that ensures every child benefits;

Quality or safety standards for transporting learners; and 

Alternatives to existing models, for example, the Government having its own fleet or schools having their own buses. 

The DA calls for public comment to be opened for a second time and for the policy to be returned to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, so that we may ensure that no learner is left behind.

One third of learners who require transport are not being provided with it. This means that far greater care must go into the policy to ensure that learners are able to access the education they deserve. 

It is worth noting how Cabinet came to bypass Parliament in passing the National Learner Transport Policy:

The first presentation by the Department of Transport to the Portfolio Committee on this policy was rejected.

The second presentation resulted in consensus amongst members that much needs to be altered to make the policy meaningful.

This led to a formal request by the Chair for a revised version to be returned to the committee before finalisation. The revised version was not presented to the Committee and we were unable to comment. 

As it turns out, the Transport Department submitted the policy to Cabinet without the knowledge of Basic Education officials who presented the draft policy to Parliament. 

The Departments of Basic Education and Transport share a dual responsibility for transporting learners. However there does not seem to be any coordination.

It is therefore clear that this lack of synergy on this policy is going to result in far more serious problems in the future.

While the right to education is enshrined in our Constitution, often there are circumstances, such as long walks to school, that infringe on this right. 

Revising this learner transport policy is crucial for ensuring that the right to access education is upheld, and that safe and reliable learner transport services are in place.

Statement issued by Desiree van der Walt MP, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Basic Education, May 31 2015