Equal Education (EE), the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) welcome the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Appropriations to National Treasury on 19th November 2014 concerning the establishment of a conditional grant for the provisioning of learner transport. The Committee also emphasised the need for qualifying learners across all public school quintiles to receive meals through the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) given current shortcomings in this programme.
In November 2014, the Committee held public hearings for stakeholders to comment on the 2014 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement. EE and the PSAM made a joint submission to the committee, which focused on school infrastructure, scholar transport and school nutrition budget allocations and expenditure trends. Recommendations were made to the Committee based on EE and PSAM research. We are very encouraged that two of these recommendations were adopted by Committee, namely;
That the Minister of Finance should ensure that:
National Treasury, in consultation with the Department of Basic Education and with the assistance of the Financial and Fiscal Commission, consider the formulation and development of a conditional grant for the provision of scholar transport.
National Treasury, in consultation with the Department of Basic Education should assess the effectiveness of the quintile system with particular emphasis on ensuring that qualifying beneficiaries for programmes such as school nutrition programme are adequately catered for.
The issue of the provisioning of learner transport was first raised in the EE and EELC BasicEducation Shadow Report: A Review of the Department of Basic Education’sPerformance in 2013/2014, which was submitted to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education. The purpose of the Report was to aid the Committee in its preparation for the 2013/20114 Budget Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR). The Shadow Report highlighted key aspects of the DBE’s successes and failures by examining the following issues;
· School Infrastructure
· Learner Transport provisioning
· The National School Nutrition Programme
· Section 100 (1)(b)
· Underperforming schools
There are thousands of learners in rural provinces who walk long distances to access schooling daily. Recent media reports have highlighted that in some provinces service providers are still owed money by provincial departments for providing transport to learners; and that funding that is made available by provinces is not enough to transport all qualifying learners to schools. In September 2007, Parliament’s Research Unit pointed out the effect of the lack of provision of transport for many learners in rural areas who had to walk long distances to school which included include high drop-out rates, frequent absenteeism, and high prospects of sexual and physical exploitation of learners when making the journey to and from school on foot. The Research Unit concluded that there was a need for the development of a national of scholar transport programme.
In our presentation to SCOA, the PSAM and EE emphasised the importance of the finalisation and adoption of the National Scholar Transport Policy of 2009. We also outlined the need for the establishment of a conditional grant focused on the provisioning of scholar transport. The EE, EELC and PSAM are of the conviction that this would promote significant progress towards addressing many of the barriers faced by thousands of learners in accessing education.
We hope that in his 2015 budget speech, Minister Nhlanhla Nene will address these issues and provide funds for a conditional grant.
Dmitri Holtzman (EELC): 021 461 1421/082 7335000
Zukiswa Kota (PSAM): 046 603 8358/ 072 648 3398
Hopolang Selebalo (EE): 074 261 1672