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Media statement: Equal Education calls on the KZN Transport Department to prevent learners of Esikhumbuzweni Secondary from having to cross a river to get to school, and on the KZN Education Department to repair the school’s classrooms!

13 July 2022 

Media statement: Equal Education calls on the KZN Transport Department to prevent learners of Esikhumbuzweni Secondary from having to cross a river to get to school, and on the KZN Education Department to repair the school’s classrooms!

Equal Education KwaZulu-Natal is extremely distressed that learners of Esikhumbuzweni Secondary in Nquthu are often unable to get to school because there is no road infrastructure that makes it possible to safely cross the river that is along their way. Making things worse is that the infrastructure of their school is falling apart!

We are calling on the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport (KZN DoT) to urgently build a bridge across the river nearby Esikhumbuzweni Secondary, so that the buses provided by the KZN Department of Education (KZN DoE) can safely transport learners to school. We also call on the KZN DoE to urgently repair the classrooms at the school.

Learner transport is a key part of the right to education!

Since 2014, Equal Education (EE) has been fighting for safe transport to be provided by government, for all learners walking far distances to school in Nquthu and throughout KZN. As well as getting the KZN DoE to provide buses and taxis to several schools in Nquthu in 2015 and in 2018, we also succeeded in getting the KZN DoE to finalise and release a learner transport policy last year. A policy is key for ensuring that safe, reliable, government-subsidised transport is provided across KZN. The policy clearly explains the roles of the KZN DoE and the KZN DoT in providing transport.

Just providing buses or taxis is not always the solution to learners’ transport problems. The KZN DoE needs to ensure that the KZN DoT fulfils its role, as outlined in the policy, by providing proper road infrastructure for those buses and taxis to use. 

EE members and other learners of Esikhumbuzweni Secondary need better road infrastructure and better school infrastructure 

A learner member of EE who attends Esikhumbuzweni Secondary, recently reached out to EE staff to report the severe difficulties that learners and teachers face on the journey to school, and also at school, whenever it rains.

Members of the Representative Council of Learners (RCL), alongside other learners, have spoken with their principal about the need for safe road infrastructure. The principal supports the advocacy of learners to hold the KZN DoE accountable for the problems that are negatively affecting their education. 

School governing body (SGB) member Thomas Khumalo has told us that it’s a longstanding problem that learners are not able to safely travel to school. At one time, the KZN DoE could not deliver exam papers to the school because the roads were in such a bad state. Learners of Esikhumbuzweni have also had to write exams at another school because they could not reach their own school, Khumalo told us. Khumalo says that the community has given up fighting for a bridge to be built across the river because there is no political will among local government councillors to make it happen. 

Late last month we visited Esikhumbuzweni Secondary to meet with Equalisers (learner members of EE), the principal and the SGB to get a better understanding of the difficulties that the school community faces and to help with creating an advocacy plan. Equalisers spoke about how both poor road infrastructure and poor school infrastructure were harming their ability to learn. They explained that: 

  • Learners cannot go to school whenever it rains and the river rises. There is no safe road that the school bus can use to take them straight to school. They miss at least two days of school a week. 
  • Rain leaks into the classrooms, and they are unable to learn.
  • When it is cold – because the classrooms have broken windows – learners are unable to concentrate in class and learning ends up taking place outside wherever there is sunshine.

We have seen for ourselves that the river is difficult to cross, even on a day with no rain. We have also seen for ourselves that the classrooms at Esikhumbuzweni are in a terrible condition. Many classrooms have broken windows, no ceilings, holes in the roofs, and deep holes in the floors. This not only makes teaching and learning very difficult,  but it is also dangerous. On top of this, there is not enough furniture for all learners.  

Maintenance work on school buildings must happen more regularly 

The Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) procedures and protocols for looking after and maintaining the basic education facilities, called the Guidelines for General Upkeep and Maintenance of Education Facilities, emphasise the need for the DBE and provincial education departments to have a sustainable approach to taking care of school infrastructure, in order to avoid the expensive replacement of buildings. Although the classrooms at Esikhumbuzweni are not made of inappropriate materials, it is very clear that there has been no maintenance work for years. The classrooms only provide the bare minimum in terms of shelter. This is especially concerning in a province such as KZN where there is flooding that regularly damages school infrastructure. 

We urge the KZN DoE and KZN DoT to work quickly toward learners’ right to education being fulfilled and protected. Learners’ futures cannot be dependent on whether it rains or not!

[END]

To arrange a media interview, contact: Jay-Dee Cyster (Equal Education Communications Officer) jay-dee@equaleducation.org.za or 082 924 1352

Leanne Jansen-ThomasMedia statement: Equal Education calls on the KZN Transport Department to prevent learners of Esikhumbuzweni Secondary from having to cross a river to get to school, and on the KZN Education Department to repair the school’s classrooms!