The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education has raised concerns over persistent lack of sufficient learner transport to support the basic education system in KwaZulu-Natal.
The committee raised this after visiting four schools under the Zululand Education District on Monday.
The committee is embarking on an oversight visit and monitoring in KwaZulu-Natal, to assess the readiness of schools in the province to take on the 2023 academic year.
The week-long oversight programme includes visits in Zululand, Harry Gwala and King Cetshwayo Education Districts.
The first day of the programme included the visits at Phumanyova Technical High School, Manzezulu ECD Centre, KwaMame Full Service School and Zamimpilo Special School, which are under the Zululand Education District.
The committee said it is generally satisfied with the school readiness in the province, but concerned by continued lack of learner transport for qualifying leaners.
Committee Chairperson, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, said while the committee notes the financial challenges faced by the provincial department and the public service in general, the inability to provide transport is a direct and painful exclusion of learners from the schooling opportunity, particularly learners from the poorest of the poor families.
“We are concerned that 1 148 schools are on the waiting list for learner transport in the province at the budgeted cost of R1.8 billion. While the cost implication is huge, the committee is of the view that further consideration should be made to make provision for learners that have to walk over three kilometres to reach the school,” Mbinqo-Gigaba said.
The committee commended the KZN Education Department for ensuring that the Learner Teacher Support Material is available on time, which has enabled teaching and learning to commence in the schools visited.
The committee also commended the ongoing commitment by circuit and district officials to provide adequate support to schools.
However, the committee members raised a concern about staff availability to support the schools, especially when a vacancy arises.
The committee also encouraged sharing of best practice between schools to enhance management, and reiterated the importance of functional and effective school governing bodies as an important pillar in enhancing governance and school functionality.
The members further commended the positive impact of the National School Nutrition Programme, and that learners continue to benefit directly through combatting of malnutrition, reduction of hunger and improvement of school attendance.
“The committee welcomed the confirmation that service providers are delivering the food on time and that learners are fed at schools. The committee also welcomed the general safety at schools within the Zululand Educational District with information that break-ins are not prevalent in the region.
“Also encouraging is that communities have adopted these schools and play an active role in keeping them safe. Schools are there to provide education to communities and should be protected by those communities,” Mbinqo-Gigaba said.
The committee will today head to King Cetshwayo Education District, where four schools, including Dover Farm School, Thuthukani Special School, Ilembe Primary School and Tisand Technical High School will be assessed for its readiness for the academic year.
Source: South African Government News Agency