7 August 2023
Media statement: Western Cape Government and Santaco should take immediate action to resolve the taxi strike to protect vulnerable learners and school communities
“The taxi strike is really affecting me in so many ways. I am being left behind in my school work while others (learners) are continuing while I have to stay home. This means that there is a possibility that I will fail my trial exams. It is really hard for us because it is affecting our studies.” – Asisiwe, Grade 12 learner
Equal Education (EE) is deeply concerned about the impact the ongoing taxi strike by the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) is having on learners and school communities in the province. On Friday, 4 August 2023, the Western Cape Education Department reported that over 280 000 learners and nearly 10 000 teachers and staff members were absent from school that day because of fears of violence and uncertainty around the strike. We urge government to find an urgent solution to the current situation because it is threatening learners’ ability to access schools safely—a crucial part of the constitutional right to quality basic education.
As tensions between the Western Cape Government and Santaco grow, and with the strike continuing this week, many learners and their families who live on the outskirts of Cape Town and rely on public transport (buses, trains or taxis) to get to and from school are mostly affected. Learners are either forced to make other plans to travel to school or to stay at home if the situation in their community is particularly tense or if schools are closed as a result. Even learners who use private transport or walk to school may also be affected if violent attacks such as torching and stone-throwing of vehicles continue.
“The taxi strike is affecting our education because we can’t go to school. We are behind on our school work and our parents are losing their jobs and getting injured.” – Likhanye, Grade 9 learner
Unfortunately, this is not the first time this year that learning in the province has been disrupted because of tensions between the provincial government and Santaco. At the start of the school year, one week in February 2023, nearly 5 000 learners were prevented from travelling to school due to a taxi blockade. A similar thing happened last year when a taxi strike almost disrupted the matric examination when 128 000 learners in the province were kept from accessing their schools. These flare-ups have serious consequences for learners and school communities in marginalised areas like townships, where it is difficult to change routines and plans to accommodate disruptions to access to school and work.
“As teachers we are determined to come to school and teach but is it unsafe for us to travel. There have been threats of burning schools and assaulting teaching staff. Some of us are now escorting learners back home, to ensure they are safe.” – Siya, high school teacher
Learners are being denied their right to learn and access crucial school-based programmes like the National School Nutrition Programme for as long as they are unable to access schools or enter classrooms. Matric learners are losing out on curriculum coverage and exam preparation at a crucial time in their school year. Many of these learners have already experienced numerous setbacks, such as the COVID-19 disruptions and loadshedding, in their schooling journey. Learners simply cannot afford to lose any more teaching and learning time.
While protest action is an important political tool, the current situation is disappointing especially because it leaves children and our schools vulnerable. We appeal to both parties to find common ground. The provincial government and Santaco need to take action right away and prioritise the safety of learners and our school communities!
To arrange a media interview, contact:
Jay-Dee Cyster (Equal Education Communications Manager) email@example.com or 082 924 1352