Siphilele Thusini wakes up every morning at 5am for his 12km journey to school in Nquthu. Come rain or shine he walks the distance because the school does not have transport. According to Equal Education‚ his story is similar to that of nearly 2-million learners in KwaZulu-Natal alone. They have to walk great distances and this makes them vulnerable to all sorts of adversity.
Equal Education will be gathering outside the Education Department in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday afternoon to screen a short film ‘Long walk to school’ to highlight the plight of these learners. “The film follows the journeys of three learners‚ one of which is Siphilele Thusini who is both featured in the film and will be attending the screening. His journey to school takes him an average of 1h30min and covers a distance of 12 km (one way). His is not an isolated case as he is one of nearly 2 million learners in KZN who have to walk punishing distances that taken an average of 2 hours to get to school‚” said the NGO’s Parliamentary Officer‚ Sibabalwe Gcilitshana.
Since 2014 Equal Education has campaigned for school buses from local government but implementation has been slow. “Equal Education members have secured significant victories in the years-long fight for access to scholar transport: pressuring national government to adopt and publish the National Scholar Transport Policy in 2015‚ getting Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to finally commit to exploring a conditional grant to fund scholar transport‚ and ensuring that three schools in Nquthu were provided with government-subsidised buses‚” said Equal Education spokesperson Mila Kakaza.
According to the organisation‚ provincial government refuses to provide transport for seven of the 12 schools that they are campaigning for‚ claiming a lack of funds.
“The KZN departments of Education and Transport are refusing to provide scholar transport to seven of the 12 schools‚ claiming that they do not have the money to do so. The departments claim that the remaining five schools are ‘schools of choice’ and not ‘schools of need’ – that these are not the schools nearest to the homes of the learners that attend them‚” said Kakaza.
Equal Education has vowed not to stop with its fight for subsided transport for school learners until all 12 schools have buses.