MEMORIAL CEREMONY AT 12 NOON TODAY FOR LUTHO FELEPU WHO DIED RUNNING FOR SCHOOL TRANSPORT
Today a memorial ceremony will be held for Lutho Felepu at Ngwenyathi High School in Gwiqi Village near Mdantsane, Eastern Cape. Lutho, who was 13, died at her school last week, on 21 April 2015, while trying to secure a place on the school transport program. The media are invited to attend today’s event.
In order to avoid walking more than 5 km to her home, Lutho, who had a heart illness, ran to queue for the limited scholar transport programme provided to her school. The run lead to her collapsing in front of her friends and classmates.
Today, 29 April, Equal Education and Ngwenyathi High will be joined by the family of Lutho Felepu, as well as by learners and educators from three other schools in Mdantsane, to remember Lutho and to demand the adoption and implementation of a policy to cater for transport for all learners, both in the province and nationally.
At Ngwenythi High School, scholar transport is provided for only 163 of the 343 learners who need it, and Principal Kungeka Ntshanga says that the first come first serve system means a daily panicked rush from the learners. Lutho’s passing was a result of one of these daily happenings.
EE considers it deeply hurtful that, in the wake of Lutho’s death, Eastern Cape Transport MEC Weziwe Tikana said the following: “I visited the school on the basis that the learner died when she tried to get on the scholar transport, but I later discovered she already had a heart problem”.
The Transport MEC’s statement diverts from the government’s obligation to ensure that learners have access to schools, and are safe. In the Eastern Cape, the budget for scholar transport is reported to cater only for only 60 000 of at least 110 000 learners walking long distances to schools.
On 9 April 2015, more than 500 Equal Education members marched to the Kwazulu-Natal Department of Education’s office in Pietermartizburg. That day, the demand of our members was that scholar transport be provided to the students of the Nquthu District, some of whom walk up to 24 kilometres to school each day, and that the provision of scholar transport in KZN be prioritised and expanded. Learners in the Eastern Cape face the same challenges as those in KZN. Learners are compelled to walk unhealthy distances to school, suffering from headaches and tiredness when they arrive, and often having to wake up very early and still not managing to reach school in time. Crime and dangerous rivers and terrain are encountered daily on the way to school. At the EE march in Nquthu, we also demanded that a national scholar transport policy be adopted, and that a conditional grant from Treasury be allocated to fund its provision.
Lutho’s death serves as a tragic reminder of the importance of our scholar transport campaign. The memorial ceremony today at Ngwenyathi High will provide an oppourtunity for schools in Mdantsane to speak about the ways in which the lack of scholar transport affects teaching and learning, and the safety of learners, and to hear about the work EE is doing as part of the national campaign for scholar transport. During the ceremony learners and educators will read statements from Nquthu learners about the difficulties and dangers of walking long distances to and from school, and will also be invited to write their own accounts of the need for scholar transport. Lutho’s friends and family will address the attendees.
As principal Ntshanga told Equal Education last week, schools and activists need to unite to “stir up the consciousness of the people responsible for this”.
The ceremony will commence at 12:00, in the Ngenyathi High School quad. The school's address is in Gwiqi Village, Newlands, East London.
For more information, or directions to the school, contact: