The ‘bus’ stops here

SUMMER JACOBS

Wolwerivier parents say their children, who attend a school more than 10km away, have been left in the lurch after a school bus service was suspended by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

With no bus to ferry their children to Vissershok Primary School, parents have been left with only two options: place their children in a nearer school or pay for transport to Vissershok Primary.

Wendy Siswana lives in the Wolwerivier relocation camp, and her daughter attends Vissershok Primary. Ms Siswana is unemployed and the suspended bus service has caused her a lot of anxiety.

“My child is repeating Grade 1 this year, and before it was easier on me because the transport was free. Now I have to pay for transport out of my own pocket and I cannot afford it because I’m not working.”

She will have to find R300 a month to get a taxi from Dunoon to take her child to Vissershok Primary. “I don’t know how long I will be able to pay, and I don’t want my child missing classes,” she said.

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Sindiswa Qankene’s daughter is in Grade 4 at Vissershok. Ms Qankene works three times a week as a domestic worker and is the sole breadwinner.

“A taxi is picking the children up at the moment and is charging us R300. The driver said we could pay at the end of the month, but I won’t be able pay this amount for the whole year. I try to look for work on the days that I don’t work as a domestic, but it’s not easy,” she said.

At first, when people were moved to Wolwerivier from surrounding areas in June last year, the bus service did not follow but the WCED got it going towards the end of the year.

Magdelene Minnaar, a Wolwerivier community leader, said parents who couldn’t pay to transport their children would have to find schools closer to the camp.

“The problem with placing these kids in other schools such as Vaatjie Primary and Meulenhof Primary is that the children may not get the same quality of education as they were receiving at Vissershok Primary. People were moved to this relocation camp and promised that they would be taken care of, but now they are battling these kinds of issues,” Ms Minnaar said.

The WCED provides transport for pupils in poor communities who live more than 5km from their nearest school.

Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said the City of Cape Town had arranged to relocate families from various areas to Wolwerivier earlier this year. They included children who had attended Vissershok Primary School before the relocation.

“The school closest to Wolwerivier is Vaatjie Primary School. The parents did not want to move their children to Vaatjie Primary during the 2015 academic year. Our district office obtained special permission to provide transport for these pupils to Vissershok for the rest of 2015, to avoid disrupting their schooling during the year. Approval was granted but only for the remainder of the academic year of 2015, and pupils were transported at a cost of R64.70 per pupil per day,” Ms Shelver said.

She said parents were informed of this in writing and spaces had been reserved for their children at Vaatjie Morawies Primary School at the beginning of this year.

“The principal of Vissershok reminded parents that they should enrol their children at Vaatjie Primary for 2016, because Vaatjie is the school closest to Wolwerivier,” she said.

“There is another primary school that is closer to the pupils’ homes. Therefore, in terms of policy, we are not able to transport pupils to a school of choice. Currently the WCED transports over 50 000 pupils a day, at a cost of almost R300 million a year.”

Ms Shelver said transport, as far as is reasonably practical, would be provided to all pupils in public schools in the Western Cape, provided:

* They reside in a geographical area qualifying for pupil transport.

* They reside 5km or further away from an ordinary public school.

* There are 10 and more pupils to commence a scheme.

* They do not pass a suitable ordinary public school.

* There is no public transport at their disposal.

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