Insufficient budget for KZN pupil transport programme
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DURBAN - While the Department of Education had made efforts to address overloads, in the pupil transport programme an insufficient budget and an ever-increasing demand still posed a challenge.
This is according to MEC Kwazi Mshengu, who in a parliamentary reply to the DA said the department was aware of 9 673 extra pupils in the pupil transport programme.
“In an attempt to address the issue of unavoidable overloads, the learner transport budget received a slight increase in 2021/2022. The department used the situation to reduce the number of learners who constitute overloads. The matter has further been brought to the attention of the provincial treasury. This has to do with an inadequate budget in a programme that has an ever-increasing demand. We have also removed learners who attend schools of choice from the programme and rerouted the vehicles to learners in need of transport, attending schools of need.”
Mshengu said that due to the financial situation facing the country, the provincial treasury had not been able to assist the department with an increased budget.
“The issue of the inevitable budgetary situation for learner transport in the province has been presented to both provincial and national treasuries. It has also been presented to the education portfolio committee in the provincial legislature,” he said.
Mshengu, responding to questions that were also posed to the Department of Transport, said that the overloads in the case of the 9 673 pupils they were aware of, were unlawful.
Transport MEC Peggy Nkonyeni concurred that such overloads were unlawful. She said that during the Covid-19 lockdown, bus and taxi services for long distance travel could not carry more than 70% of the licensed capacity, or 100% of the licenced capacity for any trip not regarded as long distance travel, adding that the latter applied to pupil transport.
“The department has a monitoring firm that assists it in dealing with overloads. Further, there is law enforcement to address the challenge of unavoidable overloads in the learner transport programme.”
DA education spokesperson Imraan Keeka, who posed the question to the MEC, said the party expected Mshengu to table a funded solution within 60 days. “This must include details on how and by when the funding gap will be resolved.”