KwaZulu-Natal Acting Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Kwazi Mshengu is satisfied with the condition of vehicles that will be transporting learners as part of the Provincial Learner Transport Programme.
Mshengu led the Provincial Learner Transport inspection programme in Port Shepstone on Tuesday morning, in preparation for the start of the 2021 academic year.
The inspection of the learner transport fleet aimed to ensure that transport services provided to learners complies with road safety guidelines, including roadworthiness of all vehicles transporting learners in the province.
The inspection also aimed at monitoring the Department of Transport and operators’ state-of-readiness, ahead of schools reopening on 15 February. It also aimed to observe adherence to the COVID-19 Regulations under Alert Level 3 on Learner Transport operations.
Mshengu said that the department has taken a decision that all buses, including midi-bus taxis and taxis that will be transporting learners across the province must all undergo roadworthiness inspection before they hit the road on 15 February 2021.02.09
“We want to make sure that our learners are safe. Learner transport is an important aspect of our education system as it is one of the key enablers for learner performance because when learners travel longer distances, they get to school tired and are unable to concentrate which affects their performance.
“As a caring government, we introduced the Learner Transport Programme as part of the interventions to ensure a conducive environment for learning and teaching,” Mshengu said.
The learner transport vehicles undertook a roadworthiness testing at the Road Traffic Inspectorate Offices in Port Shepstone, to determine whether the vehicles adhere to road safety standards prescribed by the law.
The MEC is pleased with the condition of the vehicles inspected after visiting a Black-owned bus fleet company, adding that it is exciting that an African person owned a fleet of about 90 buses.
“The department has monitoring teams in all districts across the province and officials will be working tirelessly to ensure compliance,” Mshengu said.
However, Mshengu noted that due to budgetary constraints, the department was unable to transport all 150 000 learners that needed the service in the province, and at present about 42 000 learners are provided learner transport.
” We have a shortfall in terms of providing learner transport to all deserving learners in the province. We are unable to extend the programme because of insufficient funding because the only grant that we receive for learner transport is R366 million, and according to our cost estimates we need just over R1 billion to provide an effective learner transport service,” the MEC said.
He said the department will continue to request for more funding so that “we are able to extend this intervention programme to all the deserving learners.”
Learner Transport Policy
Meanwhile, Mshengu said the Learner Transport Policy is expected to be tabled for approval in the next Provincial Executive Council of KwaZulu-Natal meeting chaired by Premier Sihle Zikalala.
The policy stipulates the prioritisation model used to identify schools that form part of the Learner Transport Programme, in view of the shortage of funding.
“Some of the considerations include the distance of the school, age group of deserving learners, and priority will also be given to disabled learners,” Mshengu noted.